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Don't Forget to Designate a Conservator!

If you or someone you love is thinking of making arrangements for estate planning or future health care needs, it is important to remember to designate a conservator. A conservator is a person whois appointed by the probate court to manage the personal or financial affairs of another adult.[1] Conservatorships can be voluntary, where a conservator is appointed by the court at the request of an adult who needs assistance managing their affairs, but without a judicial finding that that adult is legally incompetent.[2]Alternatively, conservatorships can also be involuntary; the court will, after a hearing, make a determination that the person to be conserved is legally incompetent to manage his or her own affairs and will appoint a conservator.[3]

           Inmost cases, the court is bound to follow your designation of a person as your conservator. To ensure that this happens, it's important that your meet with your lawyer ahead of time to complete and sign the documents necessary to make this designation.  

           There are two types of conservators; a conservator "of the person," who handles the personal affairs and needs of the conserved person (which can include things like food, shelter, healthcare, and clothing), and a conservator"of the estate," who manages the finances of the conserved person(including bank accounts, property, streams of income, and other investments).[4]The duties of both types of conservators are controlled by law. ConnecticutGeneral Statutes section 45a-656(a) holds that a conservator of the person is, among other things, responsible for the general custody of the conserved person, can establish the conserved person's residence within the state, and has the authority to give consent on behalf of the conserved person for medical or other professional care.[5]Connecticut General Statutes section 45a-655(a) says that a conservator of the estate must compile an inventory of the estate of the conserved person within two months of their appointment, after which point he or she must manage the estate in the conserved person's best interest, paying and collecting all debts in the conserved person's name.[6]

           Connecticut law allows for anyone of sound mind who is over the age of eighteen to designate a person, or multiple people, whom he or she wants to be appointed as conservator in the event that he or she is later found to be incapable of caring for him or herself, or incapable of managing his or her own affairs.[7]A designation of a conservator must be written and executed by you and your lawyer in much the same way as a will, with a similar degree of formality.[8]The chosen conservator will be appointed by the court unless the court finds that they are unwilling, unable, or, if there is substantial evidence to disqualify them, unfit to serve.[9]

           Connecticut courts have ruled that a person's choice of conservator must be appointed unless the person chosen doesn't want to serve, or there is substantial evidence to disqualify them. In the 2015 case of Coscia v. Coscia, a man sought to replace his conservator, who was also his ex-wife, with someone else.[10]The court held that this was ultimately something which the law allowed the man to do, despite his ex-wife's protests.[11]

           Generally speaking, there's a strong inclination on the part of the courts to honor the wishes of an individual who appoints a conservator to manage his or her affairs. In the absence of such a designation, while the court may try to appoint a person with close familial ties to the individual, it is not required by law to do so[12], and it would be unwise to count on such a favorable outcome. Smart estate planning would dictate that you should take care to designate a conservator before you end up in a situation where you might need one, as ensuring the designation of your preferred friend, family member, or attorney now may save you an untold amount of hassle down the road.  

[1]Conservatorships, Connecticut Probate Courts (last visited Apr. 5,2019).




[5]Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-656(a)(2019).

[6]Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-655(a)(2019).

[7]Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-645(a)(2019).

[8]Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-645(b)(2019).

[9]Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-650(h)(2019).

[10]Coscia v. Coscia, No. HHDCV11602550S,2015 WL 5712012, at *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. Aug. 21, 2015).

[11]Id. at *5.

[12]Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-650(h)(2019).

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