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Single Transaction Conservatorships: The Paralegal’s Role

Knowing all of the resulting steps and filings required to achieve a positive client outcome is an invaluable role that experienced paralegals play in a busy estate planning attorney’s practice.  This article details the steps involved in a single transaction Conservatorship.  In Massachusetts, a Guardianship is a legal process for adults who have a clinically diagnosed medical condition and are unable to make or communicate effective decisions about their everyday self-care, health and safety.  The Massachusetts court can appoint a Guardian to make some or all personal decisions on the adult’s behalf.  A guardianship protects the adult’s rights and independence and can be limited to areas where the adult’s ability is impaired.

What happens when an individual who is under a Guardianship has a specific financial situation that needs to be addressed on behalf of the incapacitated individual?  In this case study, Molly Smith who is under a Guardianship, has just received an inheritance from a brother who recently passed away.  Molly’s Guardian, Karen Smith, her sister, has no authority to receive the inheritance on Molly’s behalf.  Since Molly lives in a group home and receives public benefits, Karen would like to deposit the inheritance in the Family Trust of Massachusetts.  The Family Trust of Massachusetts manages pooled Trust funds as a non-profit corporation while maintaining eligibility for public benefits for each Trust fund client.

Karen must file in Probate Court what is called a Petition to Appoint a Conservator for a single transaction.  That single transaction is receiving the inheritance funds on Molly’s behalf.  Karen would petition the court on behalf of the Respondent, Molly, to appoint herself Conservator and be granted authority from the Court to receive the inheritance funds.  Since Molly is incapacitated either a Medical Certificate or a Clinical Team Report would need to be filed with the Petition detailing Molly’s medical and mental limitations.  In this instance, Molly is deemed intellectually disabled by her Psychologist so the clinician will complete a Clinical Team Report along with her primary care Physician and a licensed Social Worker.  Assents will be needed from Molly’s siblings including the children of any deceased sibling.  Molly’s parents are deceased.  It is important to list Molly’s deceased siblings along with any children of a deceased sibling on the original Petition.  A Bond will also need to be included for the specific amount of the inheritance and sureties can be waived if accompanied by a Motion to Waive Sureties.  The entire process depending on cooperation from Molly’s medical providers can be approximately four to six months.  Once approved by the court, Karen can receive the funds and deposit into the Family Trust of Massachusetts.  Karen then can request distributions for services for Molly from the Trust.

In this fact pattern, the paralegal would be the primary point of contact between the client, the Social Worker and the medical staff.  She would draft the Petition and Assents, coordinate receipt of the Medical Certificate or Clinical Team Report, coordinate the Bond or Waiver and coordinate filing with the Court.  Pam Doherty fills this role on the Strategic Paralegal Services team freeing busy attorneys up to focus on higher level tasks and building their practices.