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When should I seek conservatorship over a family member?

Most Oklahoma residents pride themselves on being self-sufficient adults who don't require anyone's assistance to manage their lives. However, sickness, injury and age can take their toll, and eventually we all may be in need of a helping hand -- someone to guide us, help us and make decisions on our behalf.

However, in some cases, a medical condition becomes so severe that we aren't able to say who we think that person should be and if an Oklahoma resident hasn't taken the appropriate estate planning measures beforehand, legal action could be required to take responsibility over an incapacitated loved one's affairs. This is called seeking a conservatorship.

However, when is seeking a conservatorship appropriate? Let's take a look at the two circumstances that must be present in order for a conservatorship to be appropriate and granted by the courts:

-- The individual is mentally or physically incapacitated and cannot make decisions for him or herself.

-- The individual does not have legal documentation already indicating who shall handle his or her affairs (like a power of attorney or living will).

Sometimes legal documentation does exist -- such as a medical directive -- but the documentation doesn't cover every decision that needs to be made. In these cases, it may also be necessary to file for a conservatorship. For example, the legal documentation might only allow a person to make medical decisions, whereas the patient being cared for also needs decisions made about who will spend time with him or her, where he or she will live and so on. Fortunately, by speaking with an elder law attorney, family members of incapacitated persons can pursue strategies to ensure that they are able to care for their loved ones and family members in need of their support.

Source:, "How an Adult Guardianship, or Conservatorship, Works," Joseph L. Matthews, Dec. 21, 2016

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