What to do if your elderly parent needs help making decisions

What do you do if your elderly parent needs help making decisions?

  1. Determine what level of help that they need.  This is often easier said than done. You should look at their physical, mental and emotional health and try to determine whether they are still in a position to make their own decisions.  Sometimes the elderly can still come to their own decision about their medical care, where they live, etc., but they simply need help implementing their decisions.  Sometimes the elderly have become so cognitively impaired, or are so vulnerable, that they can no longer even make their own decision, let alone implement it. Most times, the elderly lie somewhere in between these two extremes. Figuring out what level of help they need often requires the input of the elderly person’s physician. Sometimes you can tell what level of assistance is needed just based upon your own interactions with mom or dad.
  2. If mom or dad can still make their own decisions, but just need help implementing their decisions, you should take them to an estate planning attorney who can meet with them and get legal documents or other things in place that will allow someone else to help them implement their decisions.  These things range from joint accounts to a health care directive to a power of attorney. The estate planning attorney could even put them in touch with resources to help them develop a care plan for if their health takes a turn for the worse.
  3. If mom or dad can no longer make their own decisions to keep themselves safe, then you should determine whether they have in place legal documents that allow someone else to make decisions for them.  These documents are a health care directive (for medical decisions) and a power of attorney (for financial decisions). Depending on the details of the documents and the particular circumstances that mom or dad face, these might be sufficient to allow someone else to act on mom or dad’s behalf.
  4. If mom or dad can no longer make their own decisions to keep themselves safe and they do not have any legal documents or other measures in place, then you likely need to pursue the appointment of a guardian and/or conservator for mom or dad.  Most people find that they need the assistance of an attorney to do this.

If you have questions about how you can help your elderly parents with decision-making, please contact Cindi Spence of Spence Legal Services at (763) 682-2247.

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):

 

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.

 

Conservator Consent to Deed of Owner Spouse

Conservator DeedWhat do you need to convey title to a piece of real estate that is in your own name only, but your spouse is under conservatorship?

 

The Minnesota Title Standards require 3 things:

  1. Certified copy of letters of conservatorship;
  2. Certified copy of order of probate court authorizing conservator to consent for the incompetent spouse to the deed of the owner;
  3. Deed executed by owner and consent executed by the conservator by endorsement thereon.

See Minnesota Title Standards I-G-2 and Minn. Stat. 507.04

As a practical matter, this will involve the conservator petitioning the probate court for an Order allowing the conservator to consent to the conveyance.  Most courts will do this ex-parte, without a hearing.  The attorney should submit a Petition to Consent to Conveyance by Owner Spouse and a proposed Order.  However, some courts may require notice to Interested Persons and a hearing.  Therefore, the owner spouse should work with the incapacitated spouse’s conservator as soon as he/she plans on listing and selling the real estate, so that a potential sale/closing is not delayed.

MyMNConservator (MMC) Replaces CAMPER

ready_set_goTomorrow is the big day for My Minnesota Conservator (MyMNConservator or MMC) to launch and replace the CAMPER electronic reporting system.   The system promises to be much more user friendly.  Patience will be required at the outset, as I am sure there will be some glitches and a learning curve.  If you require the assistance of an attorney, please feel free to call Cindi A. Spence at Spence Legal Services at (763)682-2247.

 

What do you need to know to use MMC?**

  • There will be tutorial videos for MMC available on You Tube.
  • In order to use MMC you must first create an account.  You need an email address to do this.  This will be your log in for MyCourtMN, which will have additional features in the future.
  • In order to register a case (a conservatorship file), you must enter the file number EXACTLY as it appears in MNCIS, with dashes included.  If it is an older case, the last digits have to be six.
  • You will need to then enter the anniversary reporting date.  If you have already previously filed an annual account, your date will be the period end date on the last filed account.  If you have not yet filed an inventory, it will be the date of the Letters of Conservatorship (which will be the date that the Letters are filed).
  • You will have to manually fill out an Inventory – you cannot use a CSV.
  • The assets from CAMPER were not able to transfer to MMC, so the first time you enter information about a case you will need to create a conversion inventory.  You do this by using the assets and numbers from the last annual account.
  • For personal property do not enter a value less than $500.
  • If you want an attorney or other agent to help you with your accounting, you will need to designate her as a Designated Agent.  This process is simpler in MMC – you do not need to fill out a form and send it in and wait for the Court to allow access anymore.  Instead, there is a clickable area (a pencil) where you are able to add someone as your designated agent.  The Designated Agent has  a separate log in.
  • Personal Well Being Reports must be filed with the court via paper (or e-file if that is available in your district), NOT through MMC.

Stay tuned for additional blog posts with tips and tricks for using MMC.

**MMC is a work in progress.  The information in this blog post may change.  If you have questions, consult with MMC at (763)279-0176

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