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Conservatorships and guardianships

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By Brooks Burdette

TRUSSVILLE — A conservatorship may be required when an individual needs assistance managing his or her financial affairs. Conservatorships may be necessary when an adult becomes incapacitated with a physical or mental illness, injury, drugs, advanced age or any event that prevents normal functioning.

Brooks Burdette, of The Burdette Law Firm, P.C., in Trussville, assists families when there is a need for the appointment of a conservator. She said the most common example occurs when an elderly parent becomes incapacitated due to advanced age infirmities and no one has access to the parent’s accounts to manage his or her financial affairs. Once appointed, the conservator may begin taking care of the protected person’s assets, such as paying bills and safeguarding property.

Conservatorships generally involve at least one initial court hearing, and always require testimony and documentation before the court can appoint a conservator to manage the property of an incapacitated (protected) person. The conservator must post a surety bond (insurance policy), which would provide for the repayment of funds if the conservator mishandled the funds in his or her care. An accounting must be filed with the court at least every three years showing all financial activity on behalf of the incapacitated (protected) person.

Guardianships often are needed along with conservatorships. The guardian is responsible for daily living decisions, and the conservator is responsible for the daily financial decisions. Guardianships are not only common for minor children without a parent, but may become necessary if an adult becomes incapacitated with a physical or mental illness, injury, advanced age infirmities or any event that prevents normal lifestyle functioning. Once appointed, the guardian can make daily caregiving decisions and meet and talk with medical professionals.

The legal complexity of conservatorships and guardianships normally necessitates having an attorney. Burdette introduces the process to her clients by explaining that guardianships are possession of the welfare interests for the benefit of the protected person, and conservatorships are possession of assets for the benefit of the protected person. Most courts prefer that a family member petition the court to become the conservator and guardian when possible because of a trusted family the member typically has more knowledge and compassion.

There are situations where there may only be a need for either a conservatorship or guardianship. A common example is a need for a conservator when a minor child is to receive money or property, but no need for a guardian because the minor child has a parent. In Burdette’s experience, in most cases involving an incapacitated adult, both the conservatorship and guardianship are necessary to fully protect the incapacitated person.

Burdette opened her law practice, The Burdette Law Firm, P.C., in 2003 in Trussville. Her office is a beautifully renovated 1940s home and is conveniently located off Highway 11 on Glenn Avenue. Burdette attended Hewitt-Trussville High
School and was thrilled with the opportunity to open her practice in Trussville. She has been practicing law for 20 years, after serving 12 years in law enforcement. Burdette is licensed to practice in all courts throughout the state of Alabama.

No representation is made that the quality of the legal service to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.

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