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What is a conservatorship and are there other options?

When an individual is a minor child, he or she possesses a guardian in order to make legal and financial decisions in his or her best interests. In most cases, the guardian of a child is the child’s parent, but it is possible for other people to hold this role.

However, this automatic guardianship ends the moment an individual turns 18. However, not all legal adults are in the position to care for themselves and manage their own finances. This is where conservatorships come in. According to the Autism Society, conservatorships can help protect vulnerable individuals but it is not the right option for everybody and there are alternatives.

When are conservatorships helpful?

When used appropriately, conservatorships protect individuals who are mentally or physically unable to understand and accept help. Conservatorships are common for individuals with mental disabilities, persons in comas and persons living with degenerative brain diseases.

There are also many different varieties of conservatorship to fit different situations. A common example is a limited conservatorship, where the conservator may have control over certain parts of the vulnerable person’s life (for example, the conservator may control finances) but not everything (the vulnerable person may retain the ability to choose to live independently over a group home).

What are the alternatives?

If a conservatorship is not right for your situation, durable power of attorney is also a reasonable option. With a durable power of attorney, the vulnerable person voluntarily agrees to give another, trusted person the ability to make legal decisions on their behalf. In this arrangement, the vulnerable person has the right to rescind durable power of attorney at any point.

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