Real Estate Gets Really, Really Real When You’re a Conservator

Either Voltaire or that guy from Spiderman said: With great power comes great responsibility.Eldery man in wheel chair

We’re pretty sure they were talking about navigating a real estate transaction when you’re a conservator. There are so many hoops to jump through that even the hoops have hoops.

Don’t fret. We’re here to help.

Let’s back up a minute: Why might you become a conservator in the first place? (You can skip this section if it has already happened.) A court appoints a conservator to a protected party so the conservator can take over the protected party’s finances and estate. Typically, the protected party is a vulnerable adult. Sometimes it’s an older person who can no longer handle their affairs. Dementia is a common trigger for conservatorship. Sometimes it’s a younger person who struggles with addiction or other challenges. Either way, the bills aren’t getting paid and someone needs to step in.

Often, someone close to the vulnerable adult will step up and petition the court to be appointed as a conservator. However, there are plenty of cases in which social services will identify a vulnerable adult and ask the court to appoint someone. That means you could find yourself filling a conservator role even if it wasn’t something you asked for.

Back to the task at hand:
A conservator has a lot of responsibility, including over any property. Protected parties are often placed in a nursing home or other residential facility, and that’s expensive. (Think $90,000 per year for a nursing home in Minnesota.) Unless the protected party is exceptionally wealthy, their assets will quickly drain. If the party owns a home, it’s likely to be their most valuable asset, which is why so many conservators find themselves needing to sell the protected party’s home in order to pay for necessary care.

There’s a very specific procedure involved with selling a home on behalf of a protected party. The short version: Expect a giant pile of paperwork, with a number of certified documents required as well as court permission at multiple different stages along the way.

Specific requirements include:

  • Obtaining a letter from the protected party’s physician stating that the protected party is not returning home.
  • A court hearing, notice of which needs to be given to all interested parties (e.g. close kin).
  • A court-appointed appraisal, which is only good for six months.
  • Upon receipt of a purchase agreement, a petition must be filed with the court to approve the terms of the sale.
  • Certified documents present at closing stating your

And that’s not an exhaustive list. (But it is, without a doubt, still exhausting.)
Overwhelming? Definitely.
Intimidating? Probably.
Impossible? Not at all. Especially when you have help.

An experienced attorney can provide the exact level of guidance you need based on your unique circumstances. Some conservators only want a second set of eyes to ensure that the proper pleadings are made and the appropriate documents are in place. Other conservators prefer comprehensive, step-by-step support.

Even if you’re fairly confident in your roles and duties as a conservator, it’s a good idea to have an attorney in your corner. You’ll need to explain and validate your role as conservator to real estate agents, title and closing agents, courts, and interested parties—and that’s just for real estate transactions. Conservatorship is a much larger job that also involves submitting annual accounts stating exactly how the protected party’s assets and estate were handled. At Johnson/Turner, our attorneys are advocates, guides, and what-have-I-gotten-myself-into lifelines.

(Oh, and if you’re still reeling from that statistic about the cost of nursing home care, we also have attorneys who are really good at estate planning.)