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What is a conservatorship, and how can you plan to avoid it?

| Oct 14, 2020 | Estate Planning |

Thousands of people go missing every year in the United States. While many soon turn up, some never do. If you were to go missing, it could have a negative financial impact on your family, aside from the sense of worry and loss. They might need to seek conservatorship to take charge of the finances.

What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship gives a person the legal authority to manage someone else’s financial and personal affairs when they cannot. They are typically awarded due to mental illness or a severe condition such as a coma. However, a court can also grant one when a person has disappeared.

Why might someone need conservatorship over a missing person’s finances?

Imagine you head out surfing one day and do not return. Coastguard searches turn up nothing. They decide the most likely scenario is that you drowned, but they cannot confirm this without a body. Under California code, your family needs to wait five years before they can apply to have you registered as presumed dead and distribute your estate. In the meantime, they will have bills to pay. While your spouse can access funds in your joint account, they may also need to access assets that only you controlled.

To gain conservatorship, your family will need to apply to a court. It is a considerable burden to place on them when they are grieving you. If you enjoy high-risk activities such as surfing, there are steps you can take to avoid this. By giving your spouse durable power of attorney, you ensure they can take over your financial affairs without the need to go through a court and seek conservatorship.

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