Dealing with Incapacity

Durable Powers of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directives, Conservatorship of the Person and Estate

A conservatorship is a court process where a judge evaluates and receives evidence to reach a decision whether a person is incapacitated and can no longer manage their financial affairs or make decisions about their health or personal decisions and who will handle that person’s affairs. This court process is required if a person has not previously designated someone to handle decisions for them when the time comes. The conservatorship process is costly and takes time since during the remainder of a person’s life accountings and reports must be made periodically to the judge to confirm that the conservatorship is still necessary and funds are being properly used for the person’s benefit.

To avoid a conservatorship, a person can create and sign a power of attorney document to designate agents to handle financial matter for them when they are incapacitated either on a temporary or permanent basis. A Health Care Directive is a separate document that names agents to make medical decisions for them if they are incapacitated.

A HIPPA authorization is yet another separate document that names individuals who are authorized to receive information about your medical condition from doctors, hospitals or other medical providers. Without a signed HIPAA authorization, medical provides will not give potentially confidential information about your medical condition to other individuals.

Every person over the age of 18 years should have a power of attorney, health care directive and a HIPPA authorization in order to avoid a conservatorship. The documents can be changed to name different agents and should always name at least one alternate agent in case the first person named is not able to serve.