What is a Public Administrator?
A Public Administrator is an elected official who is appointed through the Probate Court as Guardian and/or Conservator for people who have been declared incapacitated.
What does "incapacitated" mean?
Incapacitated means that a person is either physically or mentally unable to make sound decisions regarding their everyday requirements of food, shelter, safety, medical care and/or financial issues.
Who decides whether or not a person is incapacitated?
Usually a judge from the Probate Division makes that decision.
What is the process for having someone declared incapacitated?
Usually, an agency such as The Department of Health and Senior Services or a social worker from a mental health unit of a hospital will contact the Public Administrator’s office regarding someone they think needs a guardian. A physician must give a written deposition which is notarized and filed along with a "Petition for Guardianship" in the Probate Court. A hearing will be set and if the judge agrees that the person does need a legal guardian, and there is not a family member willing and qualified available to serve as that guardian, the Public Administrator will be appointed.
What is the difference between a Guardian and a Conservator?
A Guardian is in charge of the physical person and a Conservator is in charge of financial matters. A person under the protection of a Guardian is called a "ward" and a person under the protection of a Conservator is called a "protectee".
What powers does the Public Administrator have as a Guardian?
The Public Administrator has the power to make all decisions for their wards’ regarding living arrangements, medical care and any other matter that affects that ward in any way.
What powers does the Public Administrator have as a Conservator?
The Public Administrator has the power to make all decisions regarding their protectees’ finances.
How does the Court know that the Public Administrator is taking care of her wards properly?
The Public Administrator is required to file certain reports with the Court on a regular basis. A "Guardian’s Annual Status Report" answers questions regarding the ward’s living arrangements and well being. An "Annual Settlement" is required for each protectee, which is an accounting of receipts and disbursements and is audited by the Probate Clerk and approved by the Judge.
What do I do if I know someone whom I think is in need of a Guardian and/or Conservator?
If this person is an elderly or mentally or physically challenged person, and you suspect abuse or neglect, the best thing to do is call the Department of Health & Senior Services’ hotline at 1-800-392-0210. DHSS will then send someone to check into the situation. If you would prefer not to hotline this person but would like to discuss the situation with someone, you may contact the Public Administrator’s office at 573-472-0400.