Family Feud? Courts May Appoint An Independent Guardian or Conservator

On July 9, 2012, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an unpublished decision (In re the Guardianship and/or Conservatorship of Lois L. Rothfusz) addressing (among other things) the issue of who should be guardian/conservator when there are feuding family members.  In keeping with precedent (In re the Guardianship of Wells, 733 N.W.2d 506 (Minn. App. 2007); In re Conservatorship of Edwards, 390 N.W.2d 300 (Minn. App. 1986), the Court affirmed the trial court’s decision to appoint a neutral professional as successor guardian/conservator, rather than one of the ward’s daughters, when there was significant acrimony between the children.  The full decision of In re: Guardianship and/or Conservatorship of Lois L. Rothfusz can be found here.  Although family members have statutory priority over a professional guardian, the court has discretion to decline to appoint someone with priority if it is in the best interest of the ward to do so.  See Minn. Stat. 524.5-309 (a) (2011) (priority for guardians) and Minn. Stat. 524.5-413(a) (2011) (priority for conservators).  As the Court stated, “the ward’s best interests are the decisive factor and the court’s paramount concern when deciding who to appoint as guardian and conservator of a ward.”  

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