If you have an older relative who is physically well but who is beginning to show signs of memory loss, or if one of your children has a disability that affects their mental functioning more than it affects their physical functioning, you may wonder whether there is a way to help them manage their personal affairs without also managing the day to day physical things that they are capable of, especially if they are living independently. If a person can manage their day to day life well, but they have trouble paying bills on time and managing their finances on their own, a conservatorship could be a way to ensure that their financial needs get met.
A conservatorship is a legal relationship that gets created by the Probate Court. The conservatorship gives a person (a conservator) the power to make financial and business decisions for another individual (the protectee). In Kansas, a conservator can get appointed if the Court decides that a prospective protectee cannot manage his or her financial affairs independently. The decision to pursue a conservatorship for an adult child is not easy because many parents want to protect their children from experiencing the consequences of managing their finances poorly, but they also don’t want to take away their child’s freedom.
When a person is eighteen years old, they are presumed to be capable of making personal and financial decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, it’s not always obvious when a disabled adult child or an older adult needs help to manage their money. Many people have financial skills fall somewhere in the middle between being entirely capable of managing their finances and being completely unable to do so. For example, they might pay their bills sporadically and risk losing essential services like utilities, or they might run out of money mid-month and get concerned because they did not buy enough food.
As parents of an adult child or relatives of an aging adult, you understand better than anyone how their abilities and disabilities affect their day to day life. You also know important details about their financial situation, like whether they have a job and what assets they have. All of these things are likely to factor into your choice about whether to pursue conservatorship. If you are thinking about pursuing a conservatorship, know that it will get approved by a Court if the proposed protectee’s impaired financial judgment poses a significant threat to their financial welfare. In some cases, an examination by a licensed mental health professional may be required, but it is not always needed. Conservatorships are useful, but they can be complicated and costly, and it is best to get help from an attorney if you decide to pursue one. Family members often find it comforting to know that conservators must keep detailed records of financial activity and file documents with the court regularly. Sometimes they must even go through additional steps to make major decisions, such as those involving real estate.
To learn more about Kansas estate planning, call Wichita attorney J. Joseph Weber at 316-265-7802. or contact our office through our website. We have appointments available from Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and we occasionally offer appointments in the evening or on the weekend.