More and more, The McGarity Group, LLC sees cases that require a conservator for a child who receives money or property. A conservator may need to be appointed when a child receives money or property by way of inheritance, life insurance, gift or a legal settlement or award. Some legal actions that require the appointment of a conservator for a minor include personal injury cases, wrongful death cases and petitions for year’s support. Georgia courts require a conservator to be appointed when an asset a child receives that’s not in a trust or under testamentary conservator management is valued at over $15,000. In the process, it helps to understand what it takes to become a conservator and the duties involved.
is a Conservatorship?
A conservator has a different legal role than a guardian. In Georgia, a guardian is responsible for the health, safety, and care of a minor child or adult ward. The age of majority in Georgia, when a person is considered an “adult”, is 18 years old. A conservator is responsible for managing the finances and property of a minor child or adult ward. For purposes of this article, we will focus on the conservators of minors.
A conservator is often the child’s parent or another close
relative, such as a grandparent or an adult sibling. Even
when a parent is named the conservator, they’re accountable to the probate
court and can be replaced if they don’t follow legal guidelines.
A conservator’s duties may include:
- Making disbursements from the
conservatorship account, which have been approved by the Court, for the
support, care, education, health and/or welfare of the minor.
- Making investments or appointing an
attorney-in-fact to do so
- Entering into contracts, as approved
by the Court, for labor or services benefiting the minor
- Receiving, collecting and holding
the minor’s property
- Paying debts and bills on behalf of
- Agreeing to a settlement award
amount in a lawsuit
The probate court can also grant the conservator authority
over the sale, rental, lease, or disposal of property, or the operation of a
farm or business the minor owns or has an interest in.
Every conservator must act in the child’s best interest,
using reasonable care, as if they’re handling their own affairs. The
conservator shouldn’t use the minor’s funds or property for personal profit or
convert them for their personal use. They should notify the probate court of
any potential conflicts of interest.
to Qualify to Become a Child’s Conservator
To be appointed a conservator, you may file a petition with
the probate court of the county where the minor lives and pay the required
filing fees. To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or
have proof of permanent status in the U.S. You may also need to consent to
background and credit checks.
After you file a
petition, the court will schedule a hearing and notify you of the need to post
a bond. All conservators must post a bond before their appointments to ensure
the protection of the child’s funds. The court will set the bond amount based
on the value of the liquid assets the minor will receive.
If you want to become a
conservator for more than one child, you must pay for and file separate
petitions and post a different bond for each child.
The application process can be complicated and confusing.
Because of the requirements and attention to detail involved, it’s crucial to
work with a skilled estate planning attorney.
When you file a petition for conservatorship, the clerk
decides whether anyone must be notified through a citation or a notice in a
newspaper. In some cases, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to
represent the child. At a hearing, the petitioner(s) will appear in court and
the judge will appoint the conservator. The conservator will likely be required
to file annual asset management plans, an inventory, and annual returns. The
judge will review these filings to ensure that the conservator protects the
child’s interests and property.
The conservatorship ends when the child reaches the age of 18.
To close the conservatorship and be relieved from
liability under the bond, the conservator must file a petition for discharge
and the former minor must consent.
If your child is entitled to money or property from a
settlement or an inheritance, the estate planning lawyers at McGarity &
Efstration can help you with the conservatorship process. Contact us today.