Minnesota Guardianship & Conservatorship Court Case Data 2012-2016

The Minnesota Judicial Branch recently released an awesome new interactive dashboard using Tableau software, which allows the user to track case data for the years 2012 – 2016.  The source for the underlying information is the Annual Reports of the Judicial Branch (2012-2016).  The user can sort by major case type, judicial district, county and dates.  The Minnesota Judicial Branch interactive data dashboard can be found here.

It provides some interesting insight into guardianship and conservatorship case filings, in terms of numbers and in terms of the counties and judicial districts that are seeing more (or less) guardianship filings. With the coming “silver tsunami”, I anticipate that the number of annula guardianship and conservatorship filings will increase.  Although, this could be tempered a bit with the push toward person-centered alternatives to guardianship.

The number of guardianship/conservatorship cases filed in Minnesota for 2012 – 2016 was 13,570, broken down as follows:

  • 2012: 2,718
  • 2013: 2,704
  • 2014: 2,620
  • 2015: 2,797
  • 2016: 2,731

The number of guardianship/conservatorship cases filed in Hennepin County for 2012 – 2016 was 2,664, broken down as follows:

  • 2012: 550
  • 2013: 590
  • 2014: 525
  • 2015: 503
  • 2016: 496

The number of guardianship/conservatorship cases filed in Ramsey County for 2012 – 2016 was 1,041, broken down as follows:

  • 2012: 220
  • 2013: 203
  • 2014: 196
  • 2015: 228
  • 2016: 194

The number of guardianship/conservatorship cases filed in Dakota County for 2012 – 2016 was 1,078, broken down as follows:

  • 2012: 192
  • 2013: 208
  • 2014: 246
  • 2015: 214
  • 2016: 218

This is great information to have.  Let’s hope the Minnesota Judicial Branch continues to keep this dashboard currrent.

Help! My Minnesota Conservator is Confusing!

“Help!  My Minnesota Conservator is confusing!”

I hear this often from callers to Spence Legal.

MyMNConservator is Minnesota’s online conservatorship accounting program that allows (requires) conservators to file their inventory and annual accountings, which are required, electronically. While the MyMNConservator system has received national recognition, it is not free from complaints.

For the family (non-professional) conservator, MyMNConservator (“MMC”) is confusing. Heck, even for professional conservators (conservators for several non-family member clients), MyMNConservator can be challenging.  I think part of what makes it so challenging is that each conservatorship is unique – in terms of assets, income and expenses. The categories offered by MMC don’t always cover the situation. Gathering and entering the appropriate data can be a challenge, particularly during the first year of the conservatorship, when the conservator is just getting used to the assets and expenses of the protected person. Many family conservators are “old school” themselves and do not have the knowledge or sophistication to use an online accounting program, even when there are tutorials, guides and a help line available. I often see family conservators in court explaining to the judge that they don’t even own a computer (really!) and they just want to file their accounting with pencil and paper. Unfortunately, Courts only grant requests to file conservatorship accountings on paper in extraordinary circumstances.

Spence Legal assists conservators with MyMNConservator (and its’ predecessor – CAMPER).  If you need help with MyMNConservator, whether it’s creating an account, naming a designated agent, preparing an Inventory, entering accounting data or completing an annual or final account, please feel free to reach out to Cindi Spence at Spence Legal Services, (763) 682-2247.

 

Background Studies in Minnesota Guardianships and Conservatorships

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Guardians and Conservators in Minnesota need to have a background study completed before the Court will appoint them as guardian.  The specific statute that addresses the background study is Minn. Stat. 524.5-118.

Commonly asked questions about the background study:

  • I am a truck driver (or a teacher or a daycare provider . . .) and so I already had a background study for my job.  Do I still need one?  Yes.  The background study for guardianships and conservatorships is specific and checks for certain things, so it needs to be done even if you have had a background study done through a different agency.
  • How much does it cost?  Currently, it costs $50.00 if you haven’t lived out of state in the last 10 years, $130 if you have lived out of state (and then you will also need fingerprints)
  • How long does it take?  It typically takes anywhere from 5 – 8 weeks, or longer.  So you should send in the background study form as soon as you file your petition for guardianship.
  • Where do I get the form to complete the background study?  It is available at www.mncourts.gov – in the “Forms” section, under “Guardianship – Conservatorship”.  Click here for a direct link to the Guardianship Background Study Form.

 

Guardianship and Conservatorship Responsibilities in Minnesota

Wondering what is involved in being a Guardian and/or Conservator for someone in Minnesota?  Check out the Guardianship and Conservatorship video created for the 4th Judicial District (this is required viewing to be a guardian or conservator in Hennepin County):

 

Tips for a Conservator Audit

5 tipsIf you are appointed as a Conservator by the Court in Minnesota, you will be audited.

CAAP (Conservator Account Audit Program) has released a very helpful informational sheet called “Tips For Preparing for a Conservator Audit“.

The advice that I give my clients when they are appointed as Conservator is:

  1. Be organized! Save every receipt, invoice, account statement, etc. Keep it in a file system, binder or whatever works for you.
  2. If in doubt, call your lawyer!

 

Cindi A. Spence – Solo Practitioner of the Month

Cindi_Proofs-036I am honored to be featured in the June 2015 issue of Attorney at Law Magazine article “Cindi A. Spence: Solo Practitioner of the Month“.  For those of you interested in reading about how I became interested in the area of guardianship and conservatorship law, and why I do what I do, take a look at the article. 

FAQ Friday: Does a person under guardianship in Minnesota retain any rights?

faq brownFAQ Friday is a new part of this blog where Spence Legal Services will provide answers to frequently asked questions on guardianships and conservatorships in Minnesota.  If you have a question that you would like answered for a future post, please submit it to Spence Legal via email (our contact information can be found on the “Contact Us” tab on this website).

FAQ:  Does a person under guardianship in Minnesota retain any rights?

Yes.  The rights that a person under guardianship or conservatorship in Minnesota retains are set forth in Minnesota Statute 524.5-120, which is known as “The Bill of Rights For Wards and Protected Persons”. 

Unless restricted by Court Order, those rights include the right to:

  1. treatment with dignity and respect;
  2. due consideration of current and previously stated personal desires, medical treatment preferences, religious beliefs, and other preferences and opinions in decisions made by the guardian or conservator;
  3. receive timely and appropriate health care and medical treatment that does not violate known conscientious, religious, or moral beliefs of the ward or protected person;
  4. exercise control of all aspects of life not delegated specifically by court order to the guardian or conservator;
  5. guardianship or conservatorship services individually suited to the ward or protected person’s conditions and needs;
  6. petition the court to prevent or initiate a change in abode;
  7. care, comfort, social and recreational needs, training, education, habilitation, and rehabilitation care and services, within available resources;
  8. be consulted concerning, and to decide to the extent possible, the reasonable care and disposition of the ward or protected person’s clothing, furniture, vehicles, and other personal effects, to object to the disposition of personal property and effects, and to petition the court for a review of the guardian’s or conservator’s proposed disposition;
  9. personal privacy;
  10. communication and visitation with persons of the ward or protected person’s choice, provided that if the guardian has found that certain communication or visitation may result in harm to the ward’s health, safety, or well-being, that communication or visitation may be restricted but only to the extent necessary to prevent the harm;
  11. marry and procreate, unless court approval is required, and to consent or object to sterilization as provided in section 524.5-313, paragraph (c), clause (4), item (iv);
  12. petition the court for termination or modification of the guardianship or conservatorship or for other appropriate relief;
  13. be represented by an attorney in any proceeding or for the purpose of petitioning the court; and
  14. vote, unless restricted by the court.

FAQ Friday: Are There Any Resources That Provide An Overview of Guardianships and Conservatorships in Minnesota?

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FAQ Friday is a new part of this blog where Spence Legal Services will provide answers to frequently asked questions on guardianships and conservatorships in Minnesota.  If you have a question that you would like answered for a future post, please submit it to Spence Legal via email (our contact information can be found on the “Contact Us” tab on this website).

FAQ: I’m thinking of becoming guardian and conservator for my aging mother.  Are there any informational resources that give me an overview of the duties and responsibilities of being a guardian or conservator in Minnesota?

Yes!  The Minnesota Judicial Branch has produced a series of educational video segments on what it means to be a guardian and conservator in Minnesota.  Potential guardians and conservators are required to watch these videos in certain judicial districts in Minnesota (2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th Districts) and to note on their Acceptance of Appointment that they have watched the videos.

The topics of the video segments are as follows:

  1. Introduction to Guardianships and Conservatorships
  2. What Guardianship Is and Is Not
  3. Less Restrictive Alternatives To Guardianship and Conservatorship
  4. Duties and Responsibilities of a Guardian
  5. Duties and Responsibilities of a Conservator
  6. Annual Reporting Requirements and Oversight by the Court
  7. Common Issues and Problems

The videos are short, but filled with great information on what it means to take on the responsibility of being a guardian or conservator in Minnesota.

Your Minor Child Inherited Some Money. Now What?

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What happens when a minor child receives an inheritance?  Can life insurance proceeds just be given to a minor child’s parent for safekeeping, or is court action necessary? What if a minor is a payable on death beneficiary of an account?

I am frequently contacted by parents with questions such as these.  My answer is usually “it depends”.  Typically, it depends on the amount of money the minor child is expected to receive.

If it $5,000.00 or less, then a parent or guardian of the child can typically just receive the payment directly and manage it on behalf of the child.  The details can be found in Minn. Stat. 524.5-104.  Note that the person receiving the money must use it for the care, support, education and health of the minor.

If it is more than $5,000.00, typically a “conservator” must be appointed for the minor.  This involves going to court.  It is usually a routine matter, but it is important that the court rules regarding the petition, notice to interested persons and background checks be followed.  Depending on the county that you are filing your papers in, the process can take as long as 8 weeks.  Many people find it beneficial to have a lawyer involved in the process.  If you do not have a lawyer, you will still be expected to follow all of the rules of court that the lawyers need to follow.

 

Samson: Petition for Guardianship Must Be Detailed

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished opinion, In re the Guardianship of Christine Rose Samson (Minn. App. June 18, 2012), which serves as a good reminder that practitioners need to put as much factual detail as possible in their petitions for guardianship/conservatorship (and, more importantly, have the factual support to back up the need for a guardianship).

In Samson, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s dismissal of a son’s petition seeking guardianship of his 98 year old mother.  Although the facts aren’t completely set forth in the Samson opinion, it appears that the petition alleged that a doctor had prescribed some wrong medication for mom; mom had previously executed a health care directive naming her daughter as health care agent; and the daughter vacationed in Florida each year for 2 months at a time and so, allegedly, unable to act with regard to mom’s health care needs during this time.

The lesson of Samson is that although Minn. Stat. 524.5-303 indicates that the petition should include a “brief description of the nature and extent of the respondent’s alleged incapacity”, in order to avoid having the petition dismissed, it would be wise to include sufficient factual detail to survive a motion to dismiss.  At a minimum, the petitioner should be prepared to submit additional factual support for the allegations set forth in the petition, if faced with a motion to dismiss.  However, the obvious drawback of not including the factual details in the original petition is that then the court may decline to consider matters outside of the original pleadings.

Bottom line:  if you are going to petition for guardianship and/or conservatorship of someone, you should have more than just general allegations/suspicions.  You must have very specific factual examples that justify taking away someone’s civil liberties and imposing a guardianship.

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