Your grandfather, Steven, can no longer make decisions on his own. A court appoints you to be Steven’s conservator to help Steven manage his money and property. You become Steven’s “fiduciary.” The law now requires you to act to a high standard of good faith and honesty.
There’s a lot of work involved with conservatorship, and the high standard could be daunting. To assist you, the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) has issued a guide: “Managing Someone Else’s Money: Help for Court-Appointed Guardians of Property and Conservators.”
The guide details conservatorship duties. These include keeping careful records, taking care to keep Steven’s money separate from yours, and making sure to spend Steven’s money only for Steven’s benefit. The court order signed by the judge may provide a list of your duties, or, if not, you can follow the list provided in the CFPB guide. You may be paying Steven’s bills and taxes, overseeing bank accounts, making investments, obtaining insurance, and any other duties contained in the court order appointing you.
The guide recommends that as a first step, you must carefully read the court order. Speak to a lawyer about it if you can, especially if the law in your state requires you to. The guide warns that you may be required to buy a bond, but, if you do not have good credit, you may not be able to get it. If so, the guide directs, inform the judge of this point before you are appointed. In New Mexico, nearly all conservators are required to obtain bonds.
The guide further details the conservator’s duties. These include creating an inventory of Steven’s property, keeping Steven’s goods and home safe, creating a budget for spending on Steven’s behalf and how to document that spending, how to sign checks on Steven’s behalf, and how to create an accounting to submit to the court as often as the court requires.
Also included is valuable advice to consult Steven as much as his condition permits; to resist pressure from others who may not have Steven’s best interests at heart; and, if in doubt, to consult the judge first before acting. You may also be required to consult and work together with other people whom Steven has designated for healthcare and other personal matters, or his court appointed guardian.
A guardian or conservatorship appointment is a big responsibility, as you must care for the person conscientiously and attentively. Be reassured, though, that help in discharging your duties is available to you from the court and from the CFPB guide.
If we can help you or a loved one understand when a guardianship or conservatorship may be necessary, please don’t hesitate to reach out. You can contact ABQ Elder Law in Albuquerque by clicking here to send us a message, or by calling (505) 830-0202.