Guardianship & Conservatorship
The Stan Butterfield law firm focuses on Guardianships and Conservatorships also known as “protective proceedings”. A protective proceeding’s purpose is to protect a person from physical and financial abuse or neglect and self-neglect. This is when the court appoints someone to take care of another person.
Why are guardianships or conservatorships even needed?
Many people ask why the courts need to be involved when family members should just be able to take care of protecting a loved one. The answer varies, but most commonly the person needing protection doesn’t understand they are putting themselves or their property at risk. This means that they are doing things that place them or their resources in danger. For instance, a person needing protection may be failing to take, or taking too much of, a prescribed medication because they can’t remember when or if they have taken it. Sometimes such a person will leave pots on the stove and forget they are cooking and there is a danger of fire. If a family member or friend tries to protect the person without authority from the court they have no right to tell the person what to do and the person remains in danger.
In most cases the person needing protection has developed dementia or some other physical disability that makes it impossible for them to adequately provide self-care or keep safe, or is being abused or neglected by someone responsible for their care.
Who protects the vulnerable person?
A guardian or a conservator is given great power to make decisions for the person they are protecting, but their roles differ:
Controls the protected person’s money; the conservator pays the protected person’s bills and manages their money. The court may appoint a conservator that only takes care of the protected person’s business matters. The conservator is not expected to use their own money to pay the protected person’s bills. With a conservator only, the protected person is then able to continue to live independently for the most part.
Makes even more decisions for the protected person such as where the protected person lives and what medical care they receive.
Why is there a need to separate the roles of Guardian and Conservator?
Think about it this way. If someone were proposing to take away your ability to make decisions for you, what would want? In Oregon, the law says the court must try to preserve a person’s liberty to make decisions as much as possible and still keep the person from harm. For this reason, the court may limit how much liberty is taken away from the protected person. If the person is only failing to adequately manage their finances then the court will appoint a conservator. If the person is in greater jeopardy, where they are not only failing to take adequate care of their finances, but are also placing themselves in situations that threaten harm to health or safety, the court appoints a guardian.
Can a person serve as both the guardian and conservator?
Often, by the time the court gets involved, the vulnerable person needs both a guardian and a conservator and the court usually appoints the same person to fill both roles.
If you are trying to help a person that is in danger of harm or struggling to manage their household finances, call Stan for an appointment—(503) 623-2427.