While helping your parents learn more about estate planning, you learn of guardianship and conservatorship. You know either role may lie in your future, but what duties should you expect to assume?
The Motley Fool explores the two decision-making roles. Learn how you could help your aging parents in their golden years.
If your mother or father becomes incapacitated or incompetent, they need someone to tend to their financial affairs, known as a conservator. With a conservatorship, an individual gives another person the power to tend to financial matters such as paying bills, managing assets such as investments and tending to the incapacitated or incompetent person’s cash flow. If anyone owes your parents money, the conservator bears the responsibility of collecting those outstanding debts.
Besides financial matters, becoming incompetent or incapacitated may render an individual unable to voice her or his health care desires. With a guardianship, your parents may designate a guardian to speak with their voices regarding medical decisions. Talk to your parents about their thoughts on life-preserving medical treatment, feeding tubes and other forms of end-of-life medical care. Besides making medical decisions, a guardian also takes charge of an incapacitated or incompetent patient’s living and safety arrangements.
Appointing a conservator or guardian
For your parents’ selection of conservator or guardian to become legally valid, they must note their chosen individual in a durable power of attorney, living will or medical power of attorney. The roles may go to two separate people or a single individual. Even then, a Tennessee court may choose a different person or persons if they feel the alternate designation serves in your loved ones’ most-favorable interests.
Talk to your parents about establishing a conservatorship or guardianship. Having a hard conversation may bring you and your loved ones peace of mind.