Conservatorships in Connecticut
By: Philip C. Pires
Conservatorship is a legal process in Connecticut that allows a court to appoint someone, known as the “conservator,” to make decisions on behalf of another person, known as the "conserved person." There are two types of conservators: conservators of the estate and conservators of the person. Conservators of the estate have authority over the conserved person’s financial affairs. Conservators of the person may be granted authority over the conserved person’s healthcare and living arrangements.
Conservatorship proceedings are typically initiated by a family member, friend, or healthcare professional who is concerned about the well-being of someone. To commence the process, a person files a petition with the probate court where the proposed conserved person resides, is domiciled, or is located at the time of filing of the petition. After the petition is filed, the probate court will hold a hearing to determine whether the conservatorship should be granted. There are two primary types of conservatorship proceedings in Connecticut: involuntary conservatorships and voluntary conservatorships.
In an involuntary conservatorship petition, the probate court is required to hear evidence regarding the condition of the proposed conserved person, also known as the respondent, and his or her ability to manage his or her affairs and meet his or her needs without the appointment of a conservator. The probate court must receive medical evidence from one or more Connecticut physicians. However, the probate court may waive the requirement of medical evidence if it is impossible to obtain because the respondent refuses to be examined by a physician.
To appoint an involuntary conservator, the probate court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent is incapable of managing his or her affairs, that the respondent’s affairs cannot be managed adequately without the appointment of a conservator, and that the appointment of a conservator is the least restrictive means available to assist the respondent in managing his or her affairs. In determining whether a conservatorship is the least restrictive means, the probate court will consider the availability of assistance from family members, neighbors, the community, or any other support source. The probate court is precluded from appointing a conservator if the respondent’s needs are being met adequately by an agency, a power of attorney, or a health care representative.
After the probate court determines that the appointment of an involuntary conservator is warranted, the probate court will determine who should serve as the conservator and evaluate the qualifications of the proposed conservator to serve. If the conserved person has previously designated a conservator or successor conservator, then the probate court is required to appoint that person unless the probate court finds that the designee is unwilling or unable to serve, or if there is substantial evidence to disqualify the designee.
Unlike an involuntary conservatorship, a voluntary conservatorship proceeding is initiated by the proposed conserved person. A person can petition the probate court for the probate court to appoint either a voluntary conservatorship of the estate, of the person, or both. Once the petition is filed, the probate court holds a hearing at which the petitioner explains his or her reasons for filing the petition. Except under unusual circumstances, the probate court will then grant the voluntary application. Unlike in an involuntary conservatorship petition, the probate court cannot make a finding that the petitioner is incapable. After the voluntary conservator is appointed, the conserved person can terminate the voluntary conservatorship by giving 30 days written notice to the probate court. If the conserved person subsequently becomes disabled or incapable, then the authority of the voluntary conservator is not revoked because of such disability or incapacity.
If an involuntary conservatorship application is pending before the voluntary conservatorship application is filed, the probate court is required to decide the voluntary conservatorship application before deciding the involuntary conservatorship application.
After the conservatorship is established, the probate court will periodically review the conservatorship and require the conservator to submit reports and accountings to the probate court. In addition, because the actions of the conservator are subject to the supervision and jurisdiction of the probate court, the conservator or another interested person may petition the probate court for review of a completed or proposed action.
Conservatorship proceedings in Connecticut Probate Court are complex and often highly emotional and contentious matters. Our experienced probate litigation attorneys are well-equipped to represent you in all aspects of contested conservatorship proceedings, whether you are the petitioner, the respondent, a family member, or another interested person. If you have questions about a Connecticut conservatorship matter, please contact us for a consultation.
Philip C. Pires is a member of the Probate Litigation, and Litigation & Dispute Resolution Groups at Cohen and Wolf, P.C. Phil regularly represents beneficiaries, fiduciaries, and creditors in a variety of contested probate proceedings.