If your loved one has been struggling with day-to-day activities, you may be concerned about their future. in South Carolina, a conservatorship assists individuals who have become incapacitated due to age, injury, or other circumstances. You can petition the court to appoint them as a conservator, allowing them to manage their loved one’s finances and health decisions.

The conservatorship process can be emotionally challenging for the protected person and the potential conservator. The South Carolina attorneys at Willcox, Buyck & Williams, PA, provide clients with compassionate, effective legal counsel related to conservatorships and guardianships. If you have questions about conservatorships in South Carolina, don’t hesitate to contact Willcox, Buyck & Williams, PA to schedule an initial consultation. 

What Is a Conservatorship?

In a conservatorship, the court appoints a person, called the conservator, to manage the financial decisions of a protected adult. Conservatorships are frequently used to allow conservators to make decisions for minors who have inherited assets or been awarded settlements. They can also be used when an adult is no longer able to understand and make financial decisions for himself or herself. 

Who Is Eligible for a Conservatorship in South Carolina?

Under South Carolina law, conservatorships may be required for multiple types of people. First, a conservatorship may be required for minors who have received a settlement fund, inheritance, or insurance fund. Developmentally disabled persons may benefit from a conservatorship. Finally, adults who did not set up an estate plan and have lost the mental capacity to make financial decisions concerning their care due to age, injury, or circumstances may be placed under a conservatorship. 

Conservatorships can become necessary for a wide range of reasons. Conservatorships can ease the stress levels of individuals involved with the process because the protected person’s financial affairs will be taken care of promptly and effectively. Depending on the situation, the protected person may not be able to pay his or her bills, manage his or her investments, or engage in other crucial financial decisions. Assigning a conservator to care for a vulnerable person’s affairs can be beneficial in the following scenarios:

  • An individual suffers from traumatic brain injury
  • A life-altering mental illness, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, occurs
  • An individual’s mental state or health has deteriorated due to age

The Differences Between a Conservatorship and a Guardianship

In some states, the word guardian refers to conservatorships and guardianships. In South Carolina, there are important differences between conservatorships and guardianships, however. A guardian has the legal authority to take care of the person and make decisions concerning the protected person’s care and well-being.

Conservators generally have more authority over the protected person’s financial decisions and business matters. As a result, if the protected person doesn’t have significant assets other than a social security check, a conservatorship may not be required. If the protected person does have significant assets, a conservatorship may be needed so the conservator can manage the protected person’s finances for his or her benefit.

Can the Court Appoint a Conservator?

Yes, S.C. Code § 62-5-410 lists the priority of parties that the court can appoint as conservators. In most cases, conservatorship occurs when a person petitions the court to appoint him or her as the protected person’s conservator. However, if no one has stepped forward to petition the court to become a conservator, the court does have the authority to appoint a conservator when necessary.

Generally, the court will appoint a spouse or an adult child to become the conservator. However, the court may appoint a professional if someone else can fulfill the role. If the professional hasn’t already been approved as a conservator by the court, he or she will likely need to provide a credit report and a criminal background report called a “SLED” check. 

How to File a Petition for Conservatorship in South Carolina

If you are concerned that your loved one isn’t able to take care of himself or herself, you can file a petition for a conservatorship. You will need to file the petition in the county where the person who is incapacitated resides. In most cases, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem, a court examiner, and an attorney to represent the protected person. 

Courts want to ensure that the allegedly incapacitated person cannot make decisions for himself or herself before appointing a conservatorship. A conservator acts as the fiduciary for the protected person and needs to be someone who can put the protected person’s best interest at the forefront.

Responsibilities of a South Carolina Conservator

Petitioning the court to become a conservator is a step that you shouldn’t take lightly. Conservators have a fiduciary duty to manage the protected person’s Affairs in a way that benefits the protected person. Some of the many responsibilities that a conservatorship will be responsible for include the following:

  • Managing income from the protected person’s assets and investments
  • Paying the protected person’s bills in a timely manner
  • Protecting the assets of the protected person from being lost or stolen
  • Setting up evaluations and otherwise organizing the protected person’s assets
  • Obtaining permission from the court before the sale of the protected person’s assets
  • Providing the court with regular updates as to the individual’s assets

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?

Working with an attorney can help you move through the conservatorship process effectively. Getting appointed as a conservator can be expensive and time-consuming. If you are pursuing a conservatorship, an attorney can help you avoid unnecessary mistakes that could cost you time and money. If you have had a conservative action filed against you, you will also benefit from hiring an attorney to represent you. Ensuring that you have an estate plan can help you avoid a conservatorship.

Discuss Your Case with a South Carolina Conservatorship Attorney

For many families, pursuing a conservatorship can be a difficult prospect. Knowing that a loved one cannot care for himself or herself can be emotionally challenging. If you have questions about whether a conservatorship is the best option for you and your loved ones, the compassionate Attorneys at Willcox, Buyck & Williams, PA, are here to help. Contact us today to schedule an initial case evaluation.