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Dealing with incapacity in Colorado, part 2: Conservators

What is the difference between a guardian and conservator in Colorado? Can one person serve in both roles?

A guardian makes decisions and is responsible for the protected person’s well being, while a conservator handles the person’s estate and finances. It is possible that the same person could handle both roles.

Having a power of attorney or advance directives in place can avoid the need for probate court to determine incapacity and appoint a guardian and conservator. However, these documents are not always in place before they are needed.

Handling the finances

The Colorado Judicial Branch provides more information about the role of a conservator. Some of the main duties of a conservator include:

  • Locating, managing and investing all assets 
  • Dealing with insurance matters, including making sure that policy premiums continue to be paid
  • Filing tax returns and paying federal and state taxes

A conservator will develop a financial plan that the court reviews and then track transactions through checkbook registers or spreadsheets. Occasional reporting to the court is another requirement. An accounting or finance background can help, but a child or close relative can also handle the role with some organization and patience.

If the protected person owns real estate, a conservator will need to record Letters in the county clerk or recorder’s office where the property is located. Bank accounts may also need to be transferred to the conservatorship.

A joint checking/savings account or an interest in a business may bring up more questions. The answers are often highly fact specific and often best answered by an attorney.

Following the death of a protected person, the conservator files a petition to terminate the conservatorship and also a schedule with distributions. After a death, a conservator’s role is limited to protecting estate assets and paying funeral expenses.

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