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Tampa Probate Lawyer / Tampa Conservatorship Lawyer

Tampa Conservatorship Lawyer

A conservatorship is a legal mechanism in Florida designed for a very specific purpose that is only available and appropriate in special, limited circumstances. As an established Florida estate planning and probate law firm, our attorneys at Messina Law Group approach the topic of conservatorship with knowledge, compassion, and a commitment to helping families make the right decisions to care for their loved ones. If you believe conservatorship may be necessary and appropriate in your case, contact our office to speak with our team of dedicated Tampa conservatorship lawyer.

What Is a Conservatorship?

Conservatorship in Florida is governed by Chapter 747 of the Florida Statutes. Under Florida law, if a person has gone missing, a conservatorship can be imposed on their estate, allowing a court-appointed conservator to manage the person’s financial affairs and preserve their property. This process ensures that if the person is later found, their estate has been managed for their benefit in their absence. If they are later found to have died, as is sometimes the case, then the estate will be distributed according to their estate plan or Florida laws of intestacy if they died without a valid estate plan in place. Either way, their estate has been preserved by the conservator in the meantime, maximizing the benefit to the individual’s heirs and beneficiaries or next of kin.

How Is a Conservatorship Established?

Conservatorship in Florida is a judicial process. It begins by filing a petition in court to establish the conservatorship. The petition can be someone with an interest in the property or estate of the missing person (known as an absentee in the law) or who is dependent on the absentee for support.

Once the petition has been filed, the family of the absentee and any other persons with an interest in the estate will be given notice of a hearing. At the hearing, the judge will receive evidence and decide whether the person subject to the conservatorship is an absentee as defined in the law. Assuming the judge finds conservatorship to be appropriate, the judge will also decide who is entitled to be appointed as conservator.

If the court agrees that a conservatorship is necessary, the judge will appoint a conservator to take charge of the absentee’s estate and property. This appointment is made under the supervision of the court and subject to further orders of the court. In deciding who should be appointed as a conservator, Florida law instructs the judge to consider appointing someone who is next of kin to the absentee, assuming they are “fit and proper” and “qualified to act” as a conservator. The court is not bound to choose a family member, however.

What Are the Duties of a Conservator?

A conservator has whatever rights are delegated by the court, which can include full, “plenary” powers to the extent allowed by law. For instance, the conservator takes possession of the absentee’s property and all rents, income or profits from it. Regardless of the powers granted, the conservator must act in good faith and the absentee’s best interests. The conservator is expected to protect and preserve the absentee’s property and invest it prudently, keeping clear and accurate records. The conservator takes an oath in court to faithfully perform their duties and provide an accounting whenever required.

When Is a Conservatorship Terminated?

If the absentee is found or returns, they can petition the court for a termination of the conservatorship on their own or through someone with a power of attorney. At that point, the court will terminate the conservatorship and transfer all property back to the absentee or their designated attorney in fact.

If it is shown that the absentee has died, then the court will terminate the conservatorship and transfer all the property to the person appointed as executor or administrator of the estate. The estate will then go through probate or otherwise be distributed in accordance with the deceased absentee’s estate plan.

Help With Conservatorship in Tampa

If a loved one has gone missing and you need to establish a conservatorship over their estate in their absence, or if you have doubts a conservatorship proceeding is necessary or appropriate, contact Messina Law Group in Tampa to share your concerns. Our dedicated Tampa conservatorship lawyer will work with you and help ensure the right measures are being taken.

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