For many of us, there is a dream that we will grow older and enjoy our last years in relaxation, living the kind of calm life that we have deserved after such a long time in the workforce. A lot of people do get to achieve that dream, retiring at the age that they want to retire at, moving to a house where they most want to spend their time, and doing what they want to do most. They might move into a nursing home when they can no longer physically manage to care for themselves, but they still spend their remaining time relaxing and enjoying themselves.
For others, however, things do not go as smoothly. Whether because of their advanced age or a medical condition, many people lose the mental ability to manage their affairs. This can happen because of a mental condition like Alzheimer’s or dementia, or a handful of conditions associated with old age. Unfortunately, when this happens, these people need the help of someone else to keep their affairs in order – they need a legal conservator.
What Is a Legal Conservator?
A conservator is someone close to the person who has been incapacitated and needs help running their affairs. When it becomes clear that someone is needed to help out an incapacitated person, a court can appoint someone to be that person’s conservator. By being appointed by the court, that person gets put in charge of handling the incapacitated person’s money and personal property for the benefit of the incapacitated person.
Conservators Help Those Who Have Been Deemed Unable to Help Themselves
In order to be someone’s conservator, the person who you are helping must be incapacitated. If they are not, then they will not need a conservator to help them, and you are very unlikely to be appointed to help them. Courts are, after all, very wary of the possibility of people trying to become conservators to satisfy their own intentions.
Because of this, in order to be a conservator for someone, that someone must be suffering from an incapacity of some sort that prevents them from making reasonable and responsible decisions for themselves. An incapacity can come in a variety of shapes and forms, so it is impossible to list them all. However, some of the most common are those dealing with mental illness, like Alzheimer’s, or a sudden medical condition that renders them unable to make their own decisions in a rational way. When this is the case, they need a conservator to help them.
How to Become a Conservator in South Carolina
In South Carolina, if someone important to you is incapacitated, you can become his or her court-appointed conservator by filing a conservatorship action at your local court. This petition is a formal request to become that person’s legal conservator, and accept all of the responsibilities that come with the role.
The petition process involves several steps.
First, the written petition needs to explain why this particular person needs a conservator. The petition needs to show that the person has become so incapacitated that they are now unable to rationally make decisions, and that this will impact their future well-being because they can no longer effectively oversee their finances or make reasonable choice with regard to their health care options.
Once the written petition gets filed with the court, a hearing will be scheduled.
At this hearing, which will also be attended by the incapacitated person and his or her attorney, you and your attorney can present your argument as to why you should be the one appointed as the conservator. While there are many different arguments that you can make, and while the court will look to all of the circumstances surrounding the situation to make their decision as to whether you should be made the legal conservator, there are several arguments that are stronger than others. The best argument that can be made during this hearing is that the incapacitated person has actually chosen you to be their conservator, or have given you power of attorney.
Your Responsibilities as a Conservator
Once made a conservator over someone else, it will be up to you to make sure that the incapacitated person’s assets are properly taken care of and their health care decisions are made responsibly. This can be a huge responsibility for some people, and it is made more onerous by the fact that the courts want to make sure you are not abusing your position of power over the incapacitated person. To do this, courts demand that you attend hearings and file paperwork periodically, to make sure that everything is going smoothly, and you are not taking advantage of your role as conservator. Unfortunately, this has happened all too often in the past.
Your Rights as a Conservator
Being a conservator is not all obligations and responsibilities, however. There are important aspects of the role that should also be taken into account, before you make a decision as to whether to try to become a loved one’s conservator.
The ability to make the important decisions surrounding an incapacitated adult’s personal life is a huge burden, but can also be rewarding, as well. Especially if the incapacitated adult is someone that you have a long relationship with, knowing that they are being well cared for in this time of need can be incredibly relieving.
Additionally, to offset the costs and the time and effort needed to be a successful conservator for another person, you have the right, as a conservator, to reasonable compensation from the incapacitated adult’s assets.
South Carolina Family Law Attorneys
The sudden incapacity of a loved one is never a small matter. Decisions need to be made, and sometimes they need to be made quickly. Being appointed as a conservator for someone who has been made incapacitated can be crucial to their well-being. A family law attorney in Greenville, SC can help. Contact the Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC for help becoming the conservator of someone you know and love.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.