A petition to a Michigan probate court is required to initiate a conservatorship proceeding and ultimately gain appointment as conservator. Any interested person may petition the court for a conservator, including the individual who needs one. After the petition is filed, the court will send out a Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL, a neutral third-party attorney who will report back to the court on the facts of the petition after speaking to relevant interested parties including the alleged incapacitated individual. In Michigan, the GAL may or may not provide an opinion as to whether he or she believes the person in question needs a conservator but will give the judge a perspective that the judge cannot gain solely from inside of the courtroom.
The petition may then be set for a hearing where the judge will make the decision as to whether the individual in question needs a conservator, whether the proposed conservator or someone else shall be appointed, whether an independent neuro-psychological examination should be performed before a decision is made, or the judge may deny the petition all together.
Once a conservator is appointed and qualified, there are certain duties to the court the conservator must complete within a short time-frame and other duties the conservator will need to complete annually. One of the most important duties is to perform annual accounting of every penny of the protected individual’s money the conservator spends. If the conservator fails to properly account each year, the conservator may be subject to contempt of court, fines or even jail time.
A conservatorship of a minor in Michigan is similar to the conservatorship discussed above; however, the court requires a conservator for any minor who receives more than $5,000.00 in a lump sum. In Michigan, a minor might receive this amount of money from an inheritance, a lawsuit settlement or award at trial, as beneficiary of a trust… to name a few. The court does not allow this sum of money to simply be given to the minor’s parent or guardian to put in a bank account for the minor or to spend freely on the minor’s behalf. This may seem ironic, since the parent is legally responsible to support the minor until he or she reaches the age of 18. Many times the conservator appointed for the minor is the minor’s parent.
A Michigan court will ensure that the minor’s money will be waiting when the minor reaches 18 years old by ordering a restricted bank account. The restricted account must be verified initially and on an annual basis by the financial institution who holds the account. Not all banks are willing to take on this responsibility and even fewer are competent to adequately handle this procedure. The conservator is only permitted to make withdrawals from a restricted account by first obtaining a court order for the amount the conservator wishes to withdrawal to meet a need of the minor. Needless to say, any withdrawals typically are a lengthy process.
In Michigan, a durable power of attorney is a good alternative to a conservatorship if the person has the capacity to sign a legal document, but a conservatorship is the only option in many cases, and always when it comes to a minor. It is extremely important to get an experienced attorney involved when you think a conservator may be needed. There are many hoops and hurdles to jump through in this process and the above information provides only a snapshot into the duties of a conservator.
If you have questions about Michigan convervatorship, our experienced legal is ready to help. Give us a call, and we can answer your questions, and setup a meeting at our office. We look forward to helping in your time of need.