Some people who suffer incapacitation are no longer able to make important financial and other life decisions. When this happens, a court may appoint a conservator to manage the estate of the disabled person. While conservators exercise power over an estate, they are not given full reign to do as they please. Virginia law makes it clear that conservators have obligations to the people they look after.
As explained by Virginia Code 64.2-2021, a conservator has specific duties to a conservatee and the estate of that person. The opening statement of this law mandates that a conservator act in the best interests of a conservatee and should carry out reasonable care and diligence while doing so. A conservator cannot neglect an estate or act recklessly when administering the estate.
State law also instructs conservators to regard the wishes of the conservatee. If a person has expressed desires for his or her estate, the conservator must take those into account. Conservators must also consider the personal values of the conservatee when making decisions. If it is possible, conservators should also encourage conservatees to take part in decision making and to work towards regaining the ability to make estate decisions.
Virginia law defines a conservator as a fiduciary to a conservatee. A fiduciary is someone who acts in the interest of another. As a fiduciary, a conservator is tasked with managing the estate and its assets. Should a conservator act recklessly or steal from the estate, the conservator has breached the fiduciary duty to the conservatee and could be personally litigated for damages.
While the important duties of a conservator are generally defined by law, Virginia families of an incapacitated loved one may benefit from asking legal counsel about more information concerning the accountability of conservators. Because the needs of families and disabled relatives vary, this article should be taken as information and not as legal advice for your situation.