Countless individuals in Virginia have, at one time or another, had to confront the sad fact that someone they love is no longer capable of tending to their own financial affairs. When this happens, it may be necessary to have a conservator appointed who can manage such matters on their behalf, and it is incumbent upon all involved to understand the duties and liabilities that come with the role.
Duties imposed on conservators
There are numerous duties to which a conservator must remain committed, but broadly speaking, he or she must always act with reasonable care, prudence and diligence in the best interest of the designated individual — statutorily described as the “incapacitated person.”
In managing the incapacitated person’s financial affairs, a conservator will use income from the individual’s estate to pay obligations such as:
- Outstanding debts
- Recurring expenses
- Compensation as well as to a guardian, if appointed
- Expenses related to the person’s legal dependents
By taking care of the above responsibilities, the conservator will, if at all possible, also endeavor to involve the incapacitated person in decision making and management of their estate to the extend his or her condition allows.
Implications of the conservator’s fiduciary duty
Because a conservator operates under a clear fiduciary duty to the incapacitated individual, they must be fully aware of the potential liabilities that may arise by virtue of the role. For instance, a conservator can be held personally liable on contracts or obligations initiated while administering the estate if they fail to disclose the representative nature of the activity or to name the estate in the agreement itself. The special relationship that applies to conservatorships in Virginia must always guide the actions of such representatives in order to safeguard the interests of the incapacitated individual.
While there are certainly times when age or disability will require the appointment of an outside party to facilitate sound decision-making on another individual’s behalf, such relationships are governed by stringent guidelines and duties that anyone who steps up to fulfill such a role must heed.