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Conservatorship - Background Information

What is a conservatorship?

Conservatorship is a legal arrangement where the court appoints a person or institution as a conservator to handle the financial affairs for another person. The conservator collects and deposits all income, pays all debts and bills, secures all assets, and handles taxes and insurance.

In 2004, the Legislature changed the law so that a full guardian of an adult automatically has the powers of a conservator. Before 2004, it was necessary to get two appointments, one for a guardian and one for a conservator. While a person appointed as guardian may also be appointed as conservator, a separate conservator can be appointed.

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What is a conservator?

A conservator is a person the court appoints to manage the financial affairs of another person, called the protected person. The conservator manages the protected person’s money and property and pays the debts and bills.

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How is a conservator different than a guardian?

A conservator has limited powers compared to a guardian because the conservator only manages the financial affairs for another person. The conservator cannot make personal decisions for the person regarding housing, care, health and legal rights.

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Why would I file for a conservatorship?

If you are concerned that a family member or friend cannot manage money and property but is otherwise able to take care of him/herself (healthcare, food, shelter, clothing, etc.), you may consider filing a petition for conservatorship. For example, if you are concerned that the person cannot balance a check book or is giving large amounts of money away and not taking care of their own financial needs, but is able to bathe regularly, cook meals, and keep the house reasonably clean, a conservatorship may be appropriate.

The court may appoint a conservator if the person:

AND

If you think the person cannot manage their money and needs help with the daily living responsibilities, you may consider filing a petition for guardianship.

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What are alternatives to conservatorship?

There may be options instead of going to court for a full conservatorship. Consider:

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What powers does a conservator have?

The conservator is responsible for managing the protected person’s money and property and using those assets to provide their care (and for any dependent of the protected person).

The conservator must apply for any benefits to which the protected person is entitled. That may include health and accident insurance benefits and other private or governmental benefits that would help pay any of the costs of medical, mental health or other services provided to the protected person.

The conservator must:

The conservator cannot make personal decisions for the person regarding housing, care, health and legal rights. If you think the person cannot manage their money and needs help with the daily living responsibilities, you may consider filing a petition for guardianship.

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Who can be a conservator?

Almost anyone (except a minor) willing to take on the responsibility can be appointed. The conservator can be a relative or friend, a private professional conservator, or the public guardian.

There is a preference in Alaska law for the appointment of a family member or a friend as conservator. When a family member or friend is not able or willing to be the conservator, the court will appoint a private professional conservator, or the Public Guardian. A private professional conservator will provide these services for a fee, usually charging on an hourly basis. Sometimes the person needing a conservator will not be able to pay a private professional conservator. In those cases, the court can appoint the Public Guardian at the Office of Public Advocacy who charges fees based on a sliding scale.

The conservator cannot be someone who

  1. provides substantial professional or business services to the protected person,
  2. is a creditor of the respondent,
  3. has interests that may conflict with those of the respondent, or
  4. works for a person who would be disqualified under Nos. 1 – 3.

These restrictions do not necessarily apply to the respondent’s spouse, adult child, parent, brother or sister if the court determines that potential conflict of interest is not substantial and the appointment would clearly be in the best interests of the protected person.

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Can there be co-conservators?

The court can appoint co-conservators who are two different people who agree to be conservators. Usually the co-conservators are required to make decisions together and both sign financial documents about the protected person’s finances, unless the appointment specifies that each co-conservator can sign documents separately. Both co-conservators have to meet the education requirement.

The co-conservators should have excellent communication and trust each other because they need to work very closely together to manage the protected person’s finances.

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When can the court appoint a conservator?

The court can appoint a conservator only if it determines that the person:

AND

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Does the person who is the subject of the conservatorship need to live in Alaska?

Generally the person whom you think needs a conservator should be physically present in Alaska for at least the last six months for the Alaska court to have jurisdiction or authority to do a conservatorship case. If this is not the situation, there are exceptions when the Alaska court may have jurisdiction. You should talk to an attorney to see if Alaska is the appropriate court for the conservatorship case or whether you need to file the case in another state.

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Does the conservator need to live in Alaska?

The conservator does not need to live in Alaska. By accepting the appointment as the conservator, you agree that the Alaska court has authority over you as the conservator.

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Does the conservator get paid?

The conservator can be paid from the protected person’s money for the conservatorship work, but only with a written court order. Also, if the conservator or the conservator’s spouse, parent or child is going to provide room and board for the protected person, the conservator must get written permission from the court before using the protected person’s money to pay for this.

Usually, the judge will set the authorized amount of these payments in the appointment order. The court must determine whether the protected person is financially able to pay and whether the charges are reasonable. If the conservator later wants to increase these fees, he or she must ask the court permission in writing to do so. The conservator must also send notice of any such request to at least one of the protected person’s relatives if possible.

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Where can I get more information about adult guardianship / conservatorship?

If you have questions about adult guardianship in general, you can call the Family Guardian Program at (907) 269-3525, messages are checked weekly. You can also e-mail them at family.guardian@alaska.gov. For instance, if you are uncertain what level of protection might be appropriate, they can help you explore other options, including Social Security Representative Payees, a process that does not involve the court.

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Rev. 28 January 2015
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