One of our firm's primary goals is to assist our clients prepare an estate plan that prevents any unnecessary probate court involvement. However, for those who have not done the planning required to avoid probate, it may be necessary for someone to initiate a probate proceeding to seek court permission to handle that person's affairs.
If someone is incapacitated, we can handle all types of Lifetime Probate matters, including Guardianships, Conservatorships, and Involuntary Commitments. Our probate attorneys can help someone become appointed as a Guardian or Conservator, challenge the need for or scope of such an appointment, or seek the removal of a person so acting.
With offices in Northville and Brighton, our law firm handles probate matters throughout Southeast Michigan, including Livingston, Washtenaw, Oakland and Wayne Counties.
If the Probate Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a person is incapacitated and needs continuing care and supervision (called a "Ward"), the court may appoint a Guardian to make care decisions on the Ward’s behalf. A Guardian is a person appointed by the Probate Court to make care decisions for a minor or an incapacitated adult in need of continuing care and supervision. The incapacity may result from physical problems, dementia, or mental illness.
The procedures required to establish and maintain a Guardianship can be complicated, costly, time consuming, and restrictive. This is in no small part due to the fact that the process usually requires two attorneys. One attorney represents the petitioner. Another is appointed by the court (called a "Guardian Ad Litem") to investigate the allegations in the petition. The costs of both attorneys are usually paid by the Ward for whom the guardianship is sought.
Seeking appointment as a Guardian requires obtaining the requisite medical proofs to establish the necessity of a guardianship, preparing numerous court documents, filing documents with the court, serving them upon all "interested persons" in a timely fashion, as well as attending and presenting proofs at court hearings. Annual reports regarding the Ward's condition must be filed with the court in order to avoid suspension of the guardian's authority. A Guardianship lasts until the Ward dies or no longer needs supervision.
A Guardianship can be avoided entirely with a properly prepared Patient Advocate Designation (a/k/a Medical Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care) and HIPAA Authorization. A Patient Advocate's authority to make medical and mental health treatment decisions is superior to that of a Guardian. These documents must be prepared and executed before a person becomes incapacitated.
How Can I Avoid a Guardianship?
If the Probate Court finds by clear and convincing evidence that a person is unable to manage his or her property and business affairs effectively due to incapacity, confinement, detention by a foreign power, or disappearance, and that the person's assets will be wasted, dissipated or unavailable for support without proper management, then the court may appoint a Conservator to manage the assets on the person's behalf.
The procedures required to establish and maintain a Conservatorship are complicated, costly, time consuming, and restrictive. This is primarily because the process usually requires two attorneys. One attorney represents the petitioner. Another is appointed by the court (called a "Guardian Ad Litem") to investigate the allegations in the petition. The costs of both attorneys are usually borne by the person for whom conservatorship is sought.
Seeking appointment as a Conservator requires obtaining the requisite medical proofs to establish the necessity of a conservatorship, preparing numerous court documents, filing documents with the court and serving them upon all "interested persons" in a timely fashion, obtaining a surety bond, and attending and presenting proofs at court hearings. An initial inventory and annual "accountings" of the Ward's assets, income, and expenses must be filed with and approved by the probate court. Failure to properly account for the Ward's assets can result in personal liability and suspension of the conservator's authority. This necessitates the ongoing involvement of an attorney, which adds further annual costs.
A Conservatorship lasts until the Ward dies, the Ward no longer needs assistance with the management of his or her property, or the Ward's assets are used up.
A Conservatorship can be avoided entirely with a properly prepared Durable Financial Power of Attorney (a/k/a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances) and/or a Living Trust (a/k/a Revocable Living Trust or Inter-Vivos Trust). These documents must be prepared and executed before a person becomes incapacitated.
How Can I Avoid a Conservatorship?
Involuntary (Mental Health) Commitments
The Probate Court has the authority to involuntarily commit a "person requiring treatment" who has mental illness, and who as a result of that illness is a threat to himself or herself or others, is unable to attend to their basic needs, or is unwilling to seek the treatment he or she requires. The mere diagnoses of dementia or epilepsy are insufficient to establish the need for any involuntary commitment, unless the above conditions are also present.
Contact Estate Planning & Elder Law Services for a Free Consultation
For almost 20 years, the probate attorneys of Estate Planning & Elder Law Services have been assisting families in the Michigan Probate Courts. If you need assistance, we invite you to contact us for a complimentary consultation by completing our online information form or calling (888) PLAN-050.