Navigating the Complexities of Conservatorship

Unveil the intricacies of conservatorship from responsibilities to rights and legal procedures. Get reliable insights from Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC. Call us today for more information.


What Is Conservatorship in DC?

In the District of Columbia, conservatorship includes appointing an individual to take care of someone’s financial affairs when they are no longer able to do so. The ability to manage financial affairs is defined as actions necessary to administer, obtain, or dispose of real and personal property, benefits, and income.

If the court establishes that a person can’t make decisions about their money due to an injury, illness, or disability, it will appoint a conservator. The person unable to make financial decisions on their own behalf is called the conservatee. The conservator will have legal authority over the conservatee’s assets and finances. Once appointed, conservatorship lasts until the conservator resigns or dies or until the court decides the conservator is no longer needed. 

Conservatorship is often confused with guardianship. Although these procedures may appear similar, the duties of a guardian and a conservator are pretty different. 

It is crucial to understand the intricacies of conservatorship. Keep reading to learn them, along with different types of conservatorship, the responsibilities of a conservator, as well as the steps you can take to petition for a conservator. 

If, however, this sounds too complicated to you, you can always reach out to a skilled estate planning attorney at Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC. With decades of legal experience, we understand Washington’s laws on estate planning and strive to keep your loved ones taken care of. 

Types of Conservatorships

There are several different types of conservatorship, depending on goals that have to be accomplished. 

General Conservatorships vs. Limited Conservatorships

General and limited are two types of conservatorships. A general conservatorship is usually granted to older adults whose mental or physical capacity has been severely compromised or those who have been impaired due to an accident or injury. It is established for an adult who needs the assistance of another individual to handle all their financial matters. 

A limited conservatorship, on the other hand, is established for those adults who can’t handle their finances because of a developmental disability. These individuals often need the supervision of an adult but to a lesser degree than those who require a general conservatorship. In other words, it allows for the maximum amount of self-reliance possible. 

Other Forms of Conservatorship

There are also types of conservatorship where duration is considered. Permanent conservatorship lasts for the rest of the individual’s life unless a change in circumstances occurs. On the other hand, according to DC Code 21-2056, the court may appoint a temporary conservator for specific arrangements ordered by the court.

Responsibilities of a Conservator

Financial Management

When it comes to financial affairs, the conservator has several responsibilities. They have to pay bills and ensure that the conservatee’s taxes are filed and investments are overseen. 

Conservators’ services are paid through the conservatee’s assets. However, these payments must be reasonable, and the conservator can’t use the conservatee’s resources for personal gain. That’s why conservators keep records of all decisions made on behalf of the conservatee and answer to the court. 

Personal Care

The conservator must also ensure the conservatee has enough money to pay for their medical care, healthcare needs, nursing home, or living facility expenses. Furthermore, the conservator must ensure enough money to pay for the conservatee’s daily necessities. 

Conservator vs. Guardian

The guardian makes healthcare and living decisions for the conservatee. The court also appoints a guardian in the following situations: 

  • If it is determined that an individual is an incapacitated person unable to meet their basic needs 

  • If an individual is unable to make important healthcare decisions or decide on personal affairs 

  • If an individual’s mental health is compromised

If the court appoints a conservator or a guardian to an incapacitated person, that person is called a ward.

Guardians can handle small amounts of money, but a conservator will be appointed if the amount is more than $24,000 annually. Although they have different responsibilities, having the same person appointed as both a conservator and a guardian is possible. However, both roles require a long-term commitment and a huge responsibility.

If your situation is complex and you can’t decide whether a conservatorship or a guardianship is appropriate in your case, sound advice from a Washington DC guardianship lawyer can be beneficial.

Rights of the Conservatee

A conservatee loses many rights people take for granted, such as the right to manage their income and control their assets. But, despite having a conservator, a conservatee still preserves other legal rights. If the court does not appoint a guardian, a conservatee can make their medical decisions, decide on their living situation and health care matters, as well as decide on other personal affairs unrelated to finances. 

The proposed conservatee also has the right to contest and challenge a conservatorship in court. They may object to the choice of a conservator or a conservatorship in general.

The conservatee and their attorney may have to attend a hearing and present their own case as to why a conservatorship should not be granted.

Legal Procedures

Conservatorship petitions are filed in the Probate Division of the DC Superior Court. In addition, supplying as much evidence of the proposed conservatee’s lack of capacity can be crucial. 

You have to pay a $45 filing fee for a petition to appoint a conservator. After filing, the clerk will give you a Notice of Hearing with a hearing date. As a petitioner, you have to make sure the words get this notice and a copy of other papers you’ve filed with the court. However, you can’t be the one to deliver the notice. 

Usually, the conservatorship hearings are informal. Interested parties can present witnesses or other evidence to the judge as to why conservatorship should or shouldn’t be granted. 

The court will ask the person wanting to become a conservator whether they can post bond, so finding a bonding company willing to issue a bond before the hearing can be helpful. The bond’s purpose is to ensure the ward’s assets are protected. If the conservator steals the ward’s assets or doesn’t do their job correctly, the court can order the bonding company to pay the value of the bond to the ward. In that case, the bonding company may sue the conservator for its money back.

If the court determines that a conservator hasn’t fulfilled their duties, the conservatorship can be removed or the conservator’s responsibilities modified. The court can also terminate conservatorship if it determines that a conservatee is no longer incapacitated.

For More Information on Conservatorship, Contact Us Today! 

We understand how sensitive matters regarding conservatorship can be. Having a judge appoint a conservator for you or a loved one due to incapacity can be difficult, even if the goal is to preserve your assets. 

That’s why these matters require working with the right lawyer who can understand the legal complexities and guide you through the process.

Attorneys at Kevin C. Martin, Attorney at Law, PLLC, are honest, passionate, and considerate of our client’s requirements. Contact us today to schedule a consultation so we can create a legal strategy tailored to your needs and unique circumstances.