Making the choice
According to the Kansas Guardianship Program, a guardianship or conservatorship should be used as a last resort by the person’s family. For example, a person may benefit just by having a close friend or a family member offer to help with bill paying tasks, grocery shopping and picking up medications or other necessities. There are also government agencies that may be able to help families address concerns and ensure that the person’s future is protected.
Once a family has determined that there is a need for a legal intervention, then the next step is to decide between a conservatorship and a guardianship. A guardianship involves making decisions regarding a person’s education, medical care and other important matters. A conservatorship involves the management of the person’s money and financial affairs. Sometimes it may be possible for a family to convince the person that he or she is unable to take care of these decisions but, most of the time, they should prepare themselves to petition a judge to hand over the person’s legal authority.
A person seeking to be a conservator or guardian for a loved one should understand the need to demonstrate to a judge that the loved one is unable to make good, sound decisions. In doing so, the family will likely need to provide medical documentation, personal testimony and other forms of evidence that demonstrate the person’s lack of judgment and understanding in decision making.
In addition, a person should also prepare to show the judge that he or she has the ability to fill that role. Being a guardian or conservator is not an easy matter. In the state of Kansas, a judge must evaluate the following before appointing a person to the role:
- Any conflicts of interest that may exist.
- Support of the proposed ward’s religious beliefs.
- The workload of the nominee.
- The capability of the nominee to fulfill the role.
- The nominee is suitable to act on behalf of the proposed ward.
Handling another person’s day-to-day, monthly and yearly finances can be a full-time job, depending on the person’s financial situation. Generally, a judge gives precedence to a potential ward’s choice, a parent, or some other close family member.
Setting up a guardianship or conservatorship can be complex and therefore, it is recommended that a person should meet with a qualified attorney in their area to discuss the situation.