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Conservatorship Attorney Serving Charleston, SC

When a person becomes temporarily or permanently incapacitated, as is, unfortunately, the case for most of us -- 80 percent of Americans die in facilities rather than at home --  someone is needed to assist us in matters of daily living. Whether we are being cared for at home or in a hospital or nursing facility, whether our infirmity results from a birth defect, severe injury or a disease process, whether we are in a coma or simply cognitively impaired, we also need someone to manage our financial affairs. The individual or entity that deals with matters of hygiene, nourishment, and healthcare is known as a guardian. The individual or entity that deals with finances alone is known as a conservator. One significant fact to remember about conservatorships is that they are put in place after the individual becomes incapacitated, not planned for in advance like powers of attorney.

Guardians and conservators may also take care of meeting the needs of minor children when their parents have passed away or are, for some other reason, unable to perform such tasks. Sometimes, one person or entity may be assigned to serve both roles by the testator (person creating a will); in other cases, the courts will appoint one or two people or entities to handle the tasks. Either way, the person under conservatorship is known as a “conservatee.” If you are a resident of Charleston County, South Carolina and trying to become the conservator of an incapacitated loved one, you would be well-advised to work with an accomplished conservatorship attorney from Wiles Law Firm, LLC. Our experienced attorneys have the comprehensive legal knowledge and skills to smooth your path.

Duties of a Conservator

Becoming a conservator is not a position to be undertaken lightly. There is enormous responsibility involved. Once you are entrusted by someone close to you, or by the courts, to protect someone else’s money, you are accountable for every financial decision you make. You will be tasked with the following:

  • Taking inventory of the estate and having assets appraised
  • Making decisions on what personal property should be bought, sold, or retained
    (for example,determining whether your conservatee’s car should be sold in order to buy a vehicle that would accommodate a wheelchair, or whether you should rent out the conservatee’s residence in order to have ready cash for his or her care).
  • Paying any outstanding debts and/or taxes
  • Making investment decisions
  • Filing income tax returns
  • Paying all incoming bills, including medical, personal and tax bills
  • Ask for court approval when required (e.g. for extraordinary expenditures or large sales)
  • Giving an annual accounting to the court which includes details about how your conservatee’s assets have been sold, invested, or spent on his or her behalf 
Giving an annual doctor’s report on the conservatee’s physical and mental condition to demonstrate whether he or she remains mentally incapacitated and in need of a conservator and also issuing a report about the plan of care for the upcoming year

Remember that if you do not properly handle the assets of the person you are charged to protect, you may be sued by the heirs for mismanagement or even charged with a criminal offense. 

What has to happen before a conservatorship can be established?

Clearly a conservator is given a great deal of power over the conservatee. For this reason, the courts must carefully assess both parties. The conservatee must be examined by an approved, competent physician and determined to be either a minor who is not yet able to manage substantial assets or an incapacitated person. 

Defining Incapacity in South Carolina

Incapacity is defined by the state of South Carolina as “any person who is impaired by reason of mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, or other cause (except minority) to the extent that he [or she] lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his person or property.”

Who is eligible to be a conservator?

On the other side of the coin, the conservator has to pass a criminal background check as well as meet certain standards of ethical behavior. Also, an entity poised to become a conservator must be found to be stable financially, legally and ethically.

It is often the case that more than one person may be eligible to be conservator of a particular incapacitated person or minor. In such cases, which may, for example, involve multiple siblings, either the others must cede their potential power to the one who takes the job, or the court will settle the matter.First priority is given to anyone chosen by the incapacitated person to serve as guardian/conservator. Next comes a person who was given a valid power of attorney before the individual in question became incapacitated. After this, the position fall s to the spouse of the incapacitated person, followed by adult children, parents, other relatives and finally, caregivers.

If other possible candidates agree that a certain person should be the conservator, this is known as “a renunciation of others,” and follows the step of “Notice to Interested Parties” during which all potential contenders for the position receive notification that someone has applied or been appointed for the position of conservator.

How long does a conservatorship last?

Just because a person has been named conservator does not mean that individual retains that title and position indefinitely. The conservatorship ends when the conservatee recovers from his or her incapacity, or when that person dies. Many individuals recover from periods of incapacity and are able to retake control of their own finances at which point they no longer need a conservator. If the formerly incapacitated person dies with a will, the person designated as executor will either manage the finances or appoint an estate manager to do so.

How Wiles Law Firm, LLC Can Help

Wiles Law Firm, LLC has a well-earned reputation for helping clients in Charleston and surrounding communities meet their own estate planning needs and confidently fulfill their duties in various roles after the death of their loved ones. If you volunteer for, or are appointed as, as conservator, come to Wiles Law Firm for advice and guidance. We will support you every step of the way, draft and file and necessary documents, and make certain that you perform all necessary tasks legally and conscientally. If you are dealing with a loved one who has become incapacitated, we are well aware of how difficult your situation is and will treat you with empathy and respect. You can reach us by phone, email, or through a contact form on our website.

Wiles Law Firm, LLC helps clients with their estate planning needs in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding areas such as West Ashley, Summerville, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and John's Island.

Information on this website is not legal advice. Further, viewing of the enclosed information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Wiles Law Firm, LLC. Matters will be handled by attorneys who primarily practice out of our office in Charleston County located at 852 Lowcountry Blvd., Ste. 101, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. M. Emerson Wiles, III is the attorney responsible for this advertisement.

Any result Wiles Law Firm, LLC may achieve on behalf of one client in one particular matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients. Please contact a South Carolina estate planning attorney or one of our attorneys with Wiles Law Firm, LLC for a consultation regarding your unique estate plan.

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852 Lowcountry Blvd., Suite 101, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
| Phone: 843-718-0232

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