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Conservatorships are becoming public records

The legal process of appointing a guardian or conservator is there to protect people who are less able to manage their own basic, financial or legal needs. A duly-appointed guardian has a high degree of power over a person's life.

Probate proceedings are generally secret between the appointee, subject and court. This can lead some families to feel left out of a key process that hands assets and life habits to a professional guardian or other person who may not be part of the family.

Connecticut already makes several public records, including probate districts, available online to the general public. Meanwhile, Indiana and New Mexico are joining other states and municipalities in making guardianships and conservatorships available in a voluntary online directory.

These directories are designed to increase the government's ability to oversee and regulate a process that could be used to take advantage of a family member or friend with dementia or other obstacle to managing his or her own finances. Financial accountability is also a feature in legal updates to guardianships.

"These protected persons are vulnerable to physical and financial exploitation, so it is particularly important to protect these protected persons and their assets from harm," said a court magistrate who often presides over conservatorship applications.

People who are seeking guardians or conservators, as well as their families, deserve to know their rights and responsibilities while entering into a legal arrangement through probate. A lawyer can help all involved understand the process, file the appropriate documents and make sure all parties to a probate court proceeding knows what is required.

Source: CT Post, "Indiana guardianship registry prevents exploitation," Feb. 12, 2018

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