Colorado Guardianship and Conservatorship Attorney

A person who is unable to make their own decisions because of a disability may need to have a guardian and/or a conservator appointed by a court, but there are alternative solutions, discussed further below, that may be more appropriate depending on the individual’s circumstances

Guardianship and Conservatorship in Colorado

Colorado law distinguishes between guardianship and conservatorship. A guardian is appointed to make decisions about the well-being of an incapacitated person, including choices about housing and health care. The individual for whom a guardian is appointed is known as the ward. A conservator is appointed to make decisions about managing the financial affairs of an incapacitated person with significant assets. The individual for whom a conservator is appointed is known as the protected person.

Guardianship: A guardian has many of the same rights and responsibilities to the ward as a parent has to their child. A guardian makes decisions for the ward about housing, health care, and personal care, and decides what assistance or supervision the ward may need, but the guardian may delegate to the ward certain decisions that are appropriate for the ward to make. A guardian is responsible for the ward’s personal belongings, and can consent to medical decisions for the ward. A guardian can also manage small amounts of money for the ward, such as the funds needed for living expenses.

Conservatorship: A conservator is typically needed when the protected person has significant financial assets beyond what is needed for living expenses. If the protected person owns a business or property, or has investments that need to be managed, a conservator will likely be appointed. A conservator may acquire or dispose of assets, pay bills and taxes, make deposits, and invest assets of the protected person in a reasonably prudent manner. A conservator may continue to operate a business owned by the protected person, and make payments for maintenance and repair of the protected person’s property. The conservator is a fiduciary and must act in the best interest of the protected person.

Some people may only need a guardian or conservator, and some may need both. The same person may be appointed as both guardian and conservator, or two different people may fill the roles. The court will give preference to close family members. Before appointing a guardian or conservator, the court will consider less restrictive alternatives.

The Process for Guardianship or Conservatorship

Obtaining guardianship or conservatorship for a ward or protected person is not especially complex, but there are several steps that need to be taken.

  1. Consult with your attorney about your goals and the best way to achieve them.
  2. Make sure you meet the requirements to be a guardian or conservator. You must be at least 21 years old. The court will check your credit history and do a criminal background check. If you do not live in Colorado, you can be a guardian or conservator for a Colorado resident, but additional steps are required.
  3. Gather the information you will need. You will obtain a copy of your credit report and a criminal background check, and you will need a letter from the individual’s doctor stating why they need a guardian or conservator.
  4. You may want to contact other family members and interested parties to learn whether they would support or oppose you becoming guardian or conservator. You will have to notify them during the process, and if you obtain their consent and waivers of notice, you can avoid having the proceedings contested.
  5. Your or your attorney will file the appropriate forms with the court where the individual lives, including a Petition for Appointment, Acceptance of Office, Waiver of Notice if appropriate, CAPS check form, Letters of Guardianship or Conservatorship, and Proposed Order.
  6. The individual for whom you are seeking to be appointed guardian or conservator is called the Respondent. The court will appoint a Court Visitor, a person who will interview the Respondent in person and make a report to the court.
  7. You must notify interested parties of the hearing.
  8. You must have the Respondent personally served with the Notice of Hearing.
  9. A hearing is held where the court makes a decision to appoint the guardian or conservator. If approved, the court will issue the Letters of Appointment and Order appointing you.
  10. After you are appointed as guardian or conservator, you must file an Acknowledgment of Responsibilities and Probate Case Information Sheet.
  11. The court’s Order will contain instructions for reports that must be filed with the court.

Alternatives to Guardianship and Conservatorship

When a disabled person is unable to make important decisions on their own, guardianship or conservatorship may be necessary. In other cases, there are less restrictive alternatives that may be a better solution.

Representative Payee: When someone receives Social Security benefits but is unable to manage their money on their own, Social Security requires them to have a representative payee. If you are someone’s guardian or conservator or have a power of attorney, you are likely to be appointed as their representative payee, but you still have to request this status from Social Security. You can also become someone’s representative payee without being their guardian or conservator.

Financial Power of Attorney: Someone who wants a family member to help handle their financial affairs can sign a Power of Attorney appointing an agent. A Power of Attorney can be tailored to your needs, authorizing the agent to act for you with regard to real property, banking, estates and trusts, litigation, or taxes.

Medical Power of Attorney: A Medical Power of Attorney authorizes another person to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual, by appointing them to serve as Health Care Agent.

Living Will: A Living Will, or Advance Directive for Medical/Surgical Treatment, informs health care providers and your Health Care Agent of your wishes in certain medical situations. This may include whether you wish for life-sustaining procedures to be performed if you have a terminal condition or are in a coma.