ESTATE PLANNING 101: Family Warfare Over Conservatorships?
When it comes to estate planning, where do we find the most drama? What cases are the most contested in Probate Court? The answer is easy, Conservatorships! Today’s court systems are not helpful when it comes to resolving family disputes. Ask someone who has been through an unpleasant divorce or painful custody battle and they will tell you that the court litigation process is time a consuming, draining, expensive process–there are no real winners.
Conservatorship is a legal concept where a guardian is appointed by a judge to protect and manage the financial affairs of a person’s daily life. This could be due to many factors, such as physical disabilities, mental limitations, or old age. Conservatorship can refer to the legal responsibilities over a person who is mentally ill, suicidal, incapacitated, or in some other way unable to make sound legal, medical, or financial decisions.
Typical Conservatorship cases involve elderly parents who have started to show signs of loss of memory, mental defects, or inability to make appropriate decisions. Most family relationships are strained after a court case has been completed, and it’s no different in Conservatorship cases. The only difference is that the people involved are usually siblings fighting over an aging parent. The one benefit of an unpleasant divorce case is that when there are no children involved, the man and woman can go their own individual ways. The good news is that they do not have to continue to have any relationship after their divorce has been finalized.
Unfortunately, in Conservatorship cases family members are often torn apart during the litigation process. When all issues are eventually settled, the family then has to find a way to continue a healthy relationship. The litigation process does little to resolve any underlying sources of animosity, which often include the conflict over money, control, or unresolved hurts.
As practicing attorneys in this particular area of law, we are concerned about these types of cases that involve our aging population. The lack of proper planning is and will be extremely common, and our courts will eventually be in overload. We advise our clients to take steps and think ahead now by creating an plan well in advance to avoid the stressors that can come from a Conservatorship case.