Elder law deals with issues that arise when our medical condition, housing needs, and finances overlap, due to our advancing age. Many people are surprised to learn that they can qualify for government benefits to help pay for medical care. Common legal advice includes powers of attorney, living wills, guardianships and conservatorships, asset preservation as it relates to long term care, qualifying for Medicaid benefits that can assist in paying for long-term care, and more general estate planning conducted in a way that will not interfere with obtaining those government benefits. Visit our Medicaid Benefits Center for more information if you are already in or contemplating a move to assisted living or a nursing home.
A person who has diminished decision-making capacity and is under a guardian and/or conservatorship is now called a “protected person.” The court appoints a guardian to be responsible to make personal living, educational, social, and health care decisions for the protected person. On the other hand, a conservator is the person who is in charge of the protected person’s income and assets. A protected person can have just a guardian or a conservator or both. One person can serve as both the guardian and conservator, or there can be different people in those roles. Typically, the guardian and/or conservator must be a resident of the state of Iowa.
Some times a minor child needs a guardian and/or a conservator, such as in the case where parents have died in an accident or the juvenile court has terminated parental rights. More often, it is an adult who either has a developmental disability, mental illness, or has developed cognitive impairments that need one of these formal structures imposed.
A formal court proceeding is needed to establish a guardianship and/or conservatorship. The protected person must be represented by an attorney, and a second attorney assists the guardian and/or conservator in fulfilling his/her duties. In some cases, a third party called a court advisor is also needed. There is a long list of people who are entitled to be informed that a court proceeding is being held to establish a guardianship and/or a conservatorship.
A guardian must file an annual report letting the court know what services the guardian is providing for the protected person. A conservator must file a financial plan for each year. The law change in January 2020 increases the amount of oversight that the court must provide.
In order to be eligible to become a guardian or conservator you must now pass a background check to ensure you are suitable for the role. Additionally, with very minor exception, conservators are required to post a financial bond to protect the assets in case the conservator mishandles the funds in the conservatorship.
To learn about Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills, visit our Estate Planning page.
Most clients experience a great sense of relief once they sign documents that put their estate and other affairs in order. Please contact our experienced elder law attorneys to make an appointment and learn if you qualify for a reduced priced will — (515) 986-2810.