Helping America's most vulnerableā„¢

Protective Services Q&A

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if my loved one might benefit from a guardian/conservator?

When needed, guardianship and/or conservatorship are excellent options to assist and protect an incapacitated person who is unable to make informed personal or care decisions or who is unable to manage their finances. However, there are many other alternatives to attempt before using guardianship or conservatorship. Guardianship and conservatorship are the most intrusive, complicated and expensive ways to assist your loved one to meet their needs, and involve removing many of the person's legal rights. Initiating a petition to the court for guardianship and/or conservatorship should be the last resort used. Guardianship and conservatorship are controlled by state statute, involve both you and your loved one appearing in court for a hearing where your loved one's incapacity must be proven with clear and convincing evidence and lead to ongoing court supervision and statutory protections that typically last the lifetime of your loved one. Retaining an experienced elder-law attorney to initiate this process is highly recommended. An attorney is often needed throughout the existence of the guardianship and conservatorship. The guardianship/conservatorship process can place you and your loved one in an adversarial legal position and may be emotionally and financially costly. Please contact our staff regarding your loved one's situation to discuss guardianship/conservatorship and other effective alternatives to help ensure your loved one's needs are met.

My loved one has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and I've been told I should get guardianship/conservatorship authority. What should I do?

Decisions about the need for guardianship or conservatorship are complex and should never be based purely on a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or any other disease or disability. Guardianship or conservatorship is rarely needed in situations where someone has Alzheimer's disease. There are many ways to ensure that someone with dementia has their needs met without the use of guardianship or conservatorship. Learning that your loved one has Alzheimer's disease can be a difficult point in life. Fortunately, there are options for support. Our staff can help connect those with Alzheimer's disease and their families and caregivers to information, services and assistance. Please contact our staff to discuss your unique situation and how we can assist and support you and your family.

My child has intellectual or psychiatric disabilities and is going to turn 18 soon, do I need to seek guardianship?

Decisions about the need for guardianship or conservatorship are complex and should never be based purely on a diagnosis of a disease or disability. Guardianship or conservatorship is often not needed in situations where someone has an intellectual or psychiatric disability. There are many ways to ensure that someone with an intellectual or psychiatric disability has their needs met without the use of guardianship or conservatorship. Our staff can help connect those with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities and their families and caregivers to information, services and assistance. Please contact our staff to discuss your unique situation and how we can assist and support you and your family.

What is a professional guardian/conservator?

A professional guardian or conservator is a person not related by blood or marriage to the person with a guardian or conservator and who receives financial compensation to carry out the statutory responsibilities given by the court to the guardian or conservator. Professional guardians and conservators may also be corporations or institutions such as banks. Professional guardians and conservators may be appointed by the court as neutral decision makers in situations where there are no family or friends to serve, when there is severe and irresolvable conflict within the family, or when family members have personal reasons for deciding not to serve as the legal decision-maker for a loved one. Professional guardians and conservators are held to high standards by the court and the public. Their background, qualities, experience and areas of expertise vary. Most guardians and conservators are not professionals, but rather family members or friends. With approval by the court, non-professional guardians and conservators may also be entitled to payment for activities related to their statutory responsibilities.

There are many issues to consider when deciding to serve as the guardian or conservator, or determining whether it would be in your loved one's best interest to have a professional guardian/conservator. If a guardianship/conservatorship is necessary, and you decide to serve in this legally defined role, assistance is available to support you in carrying out your responsibilities. Please contact our staff to discuss your situation and to learn more about what questions to consider and what resources are available when deciding whether to become your loved one's guardian/conservator, or work with a professional guardian or conservator.

My loved one or client has been the victim of abuse or financial exploitation. Does he/she need a guardian?

The court appointment of a guardian or conservator may or may not be the best remedy for protection against abuse or financial exploitation. There are many interventions to consider depending on the circumstances involved. In all cases, it is important that any abuse or neglect be reported to the MN Adult Abuse Reporting Center at 1-844-880-1574 for possible investigation and to mobilize the unique resources of the county for the protection of the vulnerable adult. Please contact our staff for further information, consultation, advice and resources.

How do I know if I should call Volunteers of America of Minnesota Protective Services or County Adult Protective Services?

The MN Adult Abuse Reporting Center is where reports of suspected physical, emotional or financial abuse of a vulnerable adult, or neglect by the caregiver of a vulnerable adult, can be reported for investigation and the development of a protective plan under the Minnesota Vulnerable Adult Act. Any concerns about a vulnerable adult's neglect of their own needs for food, medical care, shelter and financial management should also be reported to the MAARC. When in doubt, call our staff who will discuss the concerns you have, help you develop an appropriate action plan and refer you to the MAARC when appropriate.

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