Thursday, May 11, 2017

The 411 on Conservatorships

You probably know Origin SC for their housing stability services.  Or perhaps you have participated in workshops in our financial education programs. In honor of mental health awareness month, Origin SC would like to highlight the hard work of our Conservator Department.

You may be wondering, what exactly is a Conservator? In the State of South Carolina, a Conservator is appointed by Probate Court when an adult has been deemed to be incapacitated.  This may include one who suffers from a mental or physical illness or disability, advanced age, chronic use of drugs or alcohol, or other cause to the extent that the individual is unable to make responsible decisions concerning their financial affairs. 

The purpose of a Conservatorship is to identify and secure all assets in order to protect the individual from possible exploitation or financial mismanagement.  A budget is then established with both the immediate and long-term needs in mind.  A Conservator determines what benefits the individual might be eligible for (Medicaid, VA benefits, etc) and would handle the application process.   The goal of a Conservatorship is to protect the client’s assets while still allowing as much independence for the client as is medically and financially possible.  

The Court generally looks for a family member to serve in this role for the incapacitated adult – however, sometimes there is no one willing or appropriate to serve in this role.  That’s when the Court appoints an independent agency – and that is where Origin’s Conservator Department steps in.  Oftentimes, when there is discord among the family, it is beneficial to have an independent agency handle the financial affairs to take the pressure off of family members.  

Assets may include cash, bank and investment accounts, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, real estate, automobiles, preneed arrangements, etc. The Conservator must file an Inventory and Appraisement within the first 30 days, then files Annual Accountings to the Court detailing all transactions and assets.  They often must meet with the client and family and testify in Court hearings as well.  

There is a second type of Conservatorship – one to protect the assets in excess of $10,000 received by a minor.  These funds can be received from an inheritance, insurance proceeds or personal injury settlement. These funds will be managed by the Conservator until the child reaches the age of 18.  No funds can be released before that time without Court approval.

Signs that an individual might need a conservatorship include:

Withdrawing or giving away large sums of money for no identifiable reason,

entering lotteries or sweepstakes,

demonstrating a pattern of late and non-payment of bills,

buying personal property that is not needed

While in the conservatorship program, our counselors:

Develop and implement a financial management plan for the client

Advocate on behalf of the client with creditors to ensure payment of debts

Provide options for pre-need planning of funeral arrangements

And, liquidate and/or consolidate assets such as selling a home or vehicle.

If you suspect that an individual may be in need of a Conservatorship, you can contact the local Office of Adult Protective Services or your local police department.  You can also contact Iris Albright, the Director of the Conservator Department, at (843) 735-7830.