What is conservatorship or guardianship of the estate?

Conservatorship, also known as guardianship over the estate, is when a judge appoints a conservator to manage the financial affairs of another due to age or mental incapacity. In Minnesota, once someone has a conservator appointed over their financial affairs, they are referred to by the court as a protected person.

Keep in mind, that a conservator is appointed to manage the finances of an individual. A guardian is appointed to manage the day to day living of an individual. To attend a doctor’s appointment for someone, you likely need proof of guardianship. To go to the bank for someone, you likely need proof of conservatorship.

A typical situation where the court appoints a conservator for someone is when a minor inherits a sum of money. For example, if a grandparent passes away and names their minor grandchild as the beneficiary of their life insurance policy, the company who issues the check will likely ask for proof of conservatorship. The reason companies ask for this proof is because they want to ensure that the money is going to the minor and not to the minor’s parent.

Another situation where conservators are typically appointed are to manage the finances of someone who is elderly and has diminished capacity. Bills and mortgages still needs to paid despite a diagnosis of Alzheimers or dementia. By appointing a conservator, someone can act on the individual’s behalf.

Once someone is appointed a conservator, the work doesn’t end. Within sixty (60) days of appointment, the conservator must submit an inventory to the court. The inventory will be audited. Every year on the anniversary of the conservator’s appointment, the conservator must file an accounting of how all of the money was handled. This accounting will be audited. If the judge approves the audit, the accounting will be allowed. A judge can order that a conservator correct an accounting.