At some point, many Missouri families will need to manage the affairs of an elderly family member who can no longer make decisions. A power of attorney offers a straightforward way to take over decision making, but this legal document must be prepared and signed while the elderly person remains of sound mind. When a power of attorney has not been created before mental deterioration occurs, another family member must go to a court and ask to become a conservator of the estate as well as of the person.
Setting up a conservatorship generally incurs higher costs than basic estate planning tasks, and it requires a petition to be submitted to the court and then court approval of the person requesting to be the conservator. Once granted by a court, the conservatorship will create the legal authority for the conservator to make medical and financial decisions of the ward.
Unless an emergency situation can be proven to the court, the petition process will take some time. Attaining the status of conservator requires the payment of fees to the court and to a probate investigator. Additionally, detailed financial statements will have to be periodically submitted to the court. The sale of a major asset could require court approval as well.
Costly difficulties such as these illustrate the value of early estate planning. A person who wishes to avoid legal hurdles could set up a plan that allows for a smooth and less costly transition between a person and an heir. An attorney could explain how powers of attorney work to the person who will be approving the transfer of legal authority. The document could be signed by the person before the window of opportunity closes.
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