GUIDING FAMILIES THROUGH THE SEASONS OF LIFE

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On July 9, 2012, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued an unpublished decision (In re the Guardianship and/or Conservatorship of Lois L. Rothfusz) addressing (among other things) the issue of who should be guardian/conservator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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