How do I go about getting a conservatorship?

Leslie c. asked...

I have a power of attorney but am told I need a conservatorship. How do I go about getting one? Do I need a lawyer, or just a doctor's letter and a judge?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

First make sure you really need one. A conservatorship, also called an adult guardianship, gives a person the legal right to make necessary decisions on behalf of another adult who cannot live independently. It would allow the person appointed to oversee or personally be responsible for the other’s care, custody, and control.

The person seeking to be appointed conservator will have to explain to the local probate court why he or she is the best person for the job. And surviving family members will be notified about the procedure and may contest it. It will be up to the court to decide whether the conservatorship is the best route to pursue.

Whether you will need to hire an attorney for help with this process depends on the set-up of your local probate court; they vary wildly. Courts in some places have established some very good self-help centers that provide necessary forms and instructions for how to complete and file them. Find out by doing a search of your city or county and the words "conservatorship" or "guardianship."

If your court does not provide good help, or the idea of going it alone just seems too overwhelming, you should be able to get referrals for experienced legal help through the local or state bar association. Look for an experienced lawyer who concentrates on elderlaw.