October 2, 2014

When a Probate Judge Can Give a Person a Helping Hand

Judge of Probate Terrance Lomme.

Judge of Probate Terrance Lomme.

Let’s take an all too common case along the shoreline. Grandmother has been a widow for several years now, and gradually, gradually, the ordinary chores of keeping a banking account, paying bills, and having her finances in order, has become too much for her.

In such a case grandma herself can go before a local Probate Judge and request the appointment of a Conservator to keep her books and pay her expenses. The person to be appointed could be a relative, or a trusted friend of the person seeking the court’s appointment of a Conservator.

It is not necessary to go to the expense of hiring a lawyer in a case such as this. Rather, if the person needing help has a person that they want to handle their affairs, they simply have to go before the Probate Judge, and get the judge’s approval for the appointment.

The Old Saybrook District Probate Court

Our local Probate Judge is Terrance Lomme, and he is based in Old Saybrook. His probate district includes the towns of Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Haddam, Killingworth, Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook.

Lomme’s offices are on the second floor of the Old Saybrook Town Hall, and the Court’s telephone number is 860-510-5028.

There are of course other cases, which are far more complicated, and they may require a private attorney’s services.

The Different Kinds of Conservators

The simple case mentioned above involves a “Voluntary Conservator” appointment. There are also “Involuntary Conservator” appointments, which require, among other things, a doctor’s report stating that the appointment of a Conservator is a medical necessity.

“Involuntary Conservator” appointments are the most common kind of Conservator arrangement, and before they are approved, there must be a formal hearing before the Probate Judge. Also, this kind of Conservatorship will only be granted, if there is clear and convincing evidence presented at a hearing that a Conservator’s involvement is necessary. There is also a statutory appeals procedure for Involuntary Conservator appointments.

Another type of appointment of a Conservator are those just for a limited period time, such as thirty days. When the temporary appointment time limit expires, the affected person resumes making his or her own decisions.

Making things even more complicated, a Conservator can also be appointed for the Conservatorship of an “estate,” meaning essentially, control over tangible assets, and not over a person. Banks can be appointed as a Conservator for an estate but not for a person. Also, hospitals and nursing homes are not allowed to be appointed either for a person or for an estate.

Periodic accountings are also required of a Conservator of Estate, and the posting of a bond is customary. As for Conservators concerning persons, they must get court approval before placing the subject person in a long term care institution, a change of residence, the selling of household furnishings, selling or transferring real estate, investing the subject person’s funds, and placing the person in psychiatric care.

A Conservator of Estate can be terminated if the funds therein are below $1,600. It can also be terminated if the person under a Conservator arrangement is now capable of managing his or her own affairs. A conserved person has a right to request restoration, and a court must hear this request within 30 days. Furthermore, if a conserved person cannot obtain an attorney, one will be appointed for him or her in these situations.

Conservatorships Program at Essex Library

A program is scheduled Tuesday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Essex Library, which is the second in a series on what you need to know about probate, and will focus on the law and procedures of Conservators as part of ageing and estate planning. It will be hosted by Probate Judge Terrance Lomme, and the public is invited to attend and ask questions.