Colorado Guardianships and Conservatorships: Your Questions Answered
Dec. 14, 2022
What Is a Colorado Guardianship and What Does a Colorado Guardian Do?
In Colorado, a guardianship is a legal proceeding in which a person (the “guardian”) is appointed to make decisions regarding the care of another person (the “ward”).
In Colorado, guardianships can be established for two types of people: (1) minors under age 18, or (2) incapacitated adults.
A guardian’s role is to make decisions regarding the ward’s support, care, education, health, and welfare—for example, making decisions about housing and medical issues, and making arrangements for the ward’s long term care—all for the ward’s best interests.
What Is a Colorado Conservatorship and What Does a Colorado Conservator Do?
In Colorado, a conservatorship is a legal proceeding in which a person (the “conservator”) is appointed to manage the assets and finances of another person (the “protected person”).
In Colorado, a conservatorship can be established for two types of people: (1) minors with assets requiring protection, or (2) any person who is unable to manage property that will be wasted or dissipated without appointment of a conservator.
A conservator’s role is to create and execute a plan for protecting and managing the protected person’s income and assets to uphold the protected person’s best interests.
When Is a Colorado Guardianship Needed?
Guardianship of a minor child is typically necessary when the child’s biological or adoptive parents are unable or unwilling to care for the child.
Guardianship of an incapacitated adult is needed when a ward lacks the ability to address his or her own needs in terms of physical health, safety, or self-care—even with appropriate and reasonably available technological assistance. A common example of such a scenario would be a person suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
When Is a Colorado Conservatorship Needed?
Conservatorship of a minor may be needed to protect the minor’s best interests, particularly because minors cannot legally take ownership of assets like real property. In such a case, a conservatorship would be appointed to administer the real property asset until the minor is old enough to take ownership.
Conservatorship may also be necessary when a person is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, is susceptible to undue influence, or is missing or abducted. In such cases, a conservator will gather and administer the assets to uphold the protected person’s best interests.
Who Can Petition for Guardianship or Conservatorship?
In Colorado, courts consider guardian nominees in the following order of priority:
· a currently-acting guardian
· a person nominated by the ward
· an agent under a medical power of attorney
· an agent under a general power of attorney
· a spouse, or person nominated by a spouse in a signed writing
· a partner in a civil union, or a person nominated in a civil union partner’s signed writing
· an adult child
· a parent, or person nominated by a parent in a signed writing
· an adult with whom the respondent has resided for more than six months immediately prior to the guardianship petition’s filing.
In Colorado, the following persons can petition for conservatorship:
· the person to be protected
· an individual interested in the protected person’s estate, affairs, or welfare, including a parent, guardian, or custodian
· a person who would be adversely affected if the protected person’s asset and income-related affairs are not effectively managed
What are the Requirements for Appointment as Guardian or Conservator?
In Colorado, persons seeking to serve as a guardian or conservator must be an adult of at least 21 years of age. Guardians and conservators are not required to be Colorado residents.
Colorado law requires that guardian or conservator petitioners must disclose information including:
· any criminal history
· being subject to any protection or restraining order
· entry of any civil judgment against the petitioner
· having ever been relieved of any court-appointed responsibilities,
Where to Petition for Guardianship or Conservatorship?
In Colorado, petitions for guardianship of a minor are filed in the county where the minor resides or is currently present.
In Colorado, petitions for guardianship of an incapacitated person are filed in the county where the incapacitated person resides.
In Colorado, petitions for conservatorship are filed in the county where the protected person resides, or, if the protected person does not reside in Colorado, then in any county where the protected person owns property.
What Happens in a Colorado Guardianship or Conservatorship Proceeding?
After receiving a petition for appointment of a guardian or conservator, the court will appoint a person called a “Court Visitor” who interviews relevant persons and makes recommendations regarding: (1) whether the guardianship or conservatorship is needed, and if so: (2) whom is best suited to serve as guardian and/or conservator.
If there are no objections to the petition, then the court will hold a hearing and make findings of fact to determine whether to appoint a guardian and/or conservator.
If there are objections, then the court may require the parties to mediate to try to resolve disputed issues. If disputes persist, the court will hold a trial to resolve disputed issues and decide whether and whom to appoint as guardian and/or conservator.
What Does a Guardian or Conservator Do?
A guardian of a minor has the same duties and responsibilities as a parent regarding the minor’s support, care, education, health, and welfare, and must always act in the minor’s best interest. Guardians of minors often deal with medical issues, educational issues, and arrangements for the care and upbringing of the minor child.
A guardian of an adult has similar duties, such as making arrangements for the Ward’s housing, medical care, and other needs.
Colorado Conservators have duties including paying the Protected Person’s bills, investing the protected person’s assets, filing taxes, and preparing annual reports to update the court on the Protected Person’s assets, debts, income, and ongoing financial needs.
Can the Same Person Serve as Both Guardian and Conservator?
Yes. In Colorado, one person can petition to serve as both guardian and conservator for another.
When Does a Guardianship or Conservatorship End?
Guardianships and conservatorships terminate when the ward or protected person passes away.
Guardianships relating to minors terminate when the minor is adopted, emancipated, or reaches age 21.
Charles E. Longtine has many years of experience dealing with guardianship and conservatorship cases in Colorado courts. Contact our office for more information