Do I Need to Go to Court to Become a Conservator in Michigan?

If you have a family member who is unable to manage his or her affairs, you may need legal authority to take control. Unless you have a power of attorney or the individual is able to sign a power of attorney, your only choice may be to petition the court for conservatorship.

What is a Michigan Conservatorship?

A conservatorship is a legal proceeding that appoints an individual to manage the financial affairs of another individual. The person appointed by the court is called a conservator. The conservator manages the person’s finances, including receiving income, paying living expenses, managing investments, and managing property.

Because the court appoints the conservator, the conservatorship is supervised by the court. The court may require the conservator to petition the court for approval of certain expenditures.

Filing a Petition for Conservatorship

A conservatorship proceeding begins when someone files a petition with the probate court seeking appointment as a conservator. The person seeking to be a conservator is the petitioner, and the person for whom the conservatorship is sought is the respondent.

The petitioner has the burden to prove that the respondent is unable to manage his or her finances because of a mental, physical, or other impairment. The respondent has the right to object to the petition and present evidence proving why a conservatorship is not necessary.

A hearing is scheduled for the parties to present evidence to the court. The court also receives a report from the Guardian ad Litem appointed to investigate the matter. For a conservator to be appointed, the court must find two things to be true:

  • The person cannot manage his or her property and finances because of a physical illness, mental illness, disability, mental deficiency, drug addiction, or other another impairment; AND,
  • The respondent’s property may be at risk of being wasted or disposed of improperly instead of being used to provide for the welfare and needs of the individual if the property and finances are not placed in the hands of a court-appointed conservator.

If the court finds both of the above things to be true, it can appoint a conservator to protect the respondent. The respondent is then referred to as a protected person.

How Can You Avoid a Court-Appointed Conservator?

By working with a Michigan estate planning attorney, you can take steps to avoid the need for a court-appointed conservator. You can retain control over who manages your finances even if you are no longer able to speak for yourself. An attorney can help you develop an estate plan that includes documents for incapacitation planning.

For example, a durable general power of attorney gives someone you choose the authority to manage your finances for you without being appointed as a conservator. A living will, health care power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization gives someone you trust the authority to make health care decisions for you.

A comprehensive estate plan gives a loved one you trust the power to make other decisions for you to avoid court guardianship and conservatorship actions. It keeps the power in your hands instead of placing it in the hands of a court.

Contact a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney for More Information

If you have questions about conservatorships, guardianships, or estate planning, contact The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry, Esq., CELA. Our law firm provides full-service probate and estate planning services.

Call 888-390-4360 or use the contact form on our website to schedule an appointment with a Michigan estate planning attorney near you.

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