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Dallas Estate Litigation Attorneys for Conservatorship Disputes

Some adults in Texas need help making important decisions regarding finances, health care, and other life matters. In cases where an adult is incapacitated or otherwise cannot make prudent decisions on their own, a conservator may be established to make those decisions for them and help the individual with their everyday responsibilities.

Since a conservator is basically granted all decision-making authority over another person, the potential exists that the conservator could abuse their duties or neglect them altogether. If this occurs, you have every right to hold the person accountable and seek the best possible resolution for you or your loved one.

Here at Staubus and Randall, one of our Dallas estate litigation lawyers will sit with you and carefully review your issue, and offer advice regarding your rights and options. Contact us at 214-691-3411 to request a confidential consultation.

What Is a Conservatorship?

Unlike other states, Texas uses the term “conservatorship” to refer to the custody of minor children, particularly in relation to divorce. While the Texas Family Code governs most matters involving the strict definition of conservatorship in the state, some conservatorship issues fall into estate law and are governed by the Texas Estate Code.

In cases where the incapacitated person (or the ward) is an adult, Texas allows conservatorships as either of the following:

  • Guardian of the person – Makes decisions regarding a ward’s physical well-being and their primary residence.
  • Guardian of the estate – Makes decisions about the ward’s financial affairs.

Conservators may be granted full or limited guardianship, and they may be both the guardian of the person and the estate. The court may also appoint a temporary guardian in emergency situations.

Who May Need a Conservator?

Many adults in Texas suffer from physical disabilities or mental disorders, such as dementia, that make it difficult or impossible to maintain proper hygiene, receive the medical care they need, and make prudent financial decisions.

Just having a disability doesn’t make a person incapable of making important decisions. Also, people may become the ward of a conservator based on their own behavior.

A famous example of this occurred in 2008 with pop star Britney Spears. The previous year, the performer suffered a highly publicized mental breakdown, which led to her behaving strangely and erratically, along with alleged substance abuse. Spears had minor children at the time, and her family was concerned with the children’s well-being as well as Britney’s. They sought a temporary emergency conservatorship in California, and the court appointed Britney’s father as her conservator. He was allowed to manage all aspects of her financial, legal, and medical affairs. The court then made the conservatorship permanent.

Over the course of the conservatorship, many people, including Brittney herself, had concerns with how her father was managing his duties as her conservator, even calling the relationship abusive and claiming the arrangement was adversely affecting her life. She petitioned the court for an end to the conservatorship several times over the years, which set off an extensive legal battle that concluded in 2021 when the court finally terminated the conservatorship.

What makes Britney’s case special is that she was a working adult, and she was producing music albums, appearing on television programs, and performing live concerts during the conservatorship. Although she had a mental breakdown, she had received treatment, but the court awarded a permanent conservatorship anyway.

Responsibilities of a Conservator

A conservator is supposed to always act in the best interests of the ward. In fact, the person must take an oath to fulfill their responsibilities and post a bond to act as security against any financial losses they may cause to the estate. As part of their duties, they must keep accurate records regarding the ward that include the following:

  • A detailed account of how the ward’s money is being spent
  • Receipts for reimbursement of expenses
  • An inventory of the ward’s assets
  • Records detailing health care the ward received
  • Statements regarding the ward’s needs and care as allowed by the ward’s funds

If the conservator cannot or will not provide evidence that they have properly fulfilled their duties, the ward themselves or a family member may petition to have the conservatorship terminated and request a new conservator.

Who Can Become a Conservator?

Texas courts assign certain individuals priority when determining who can serve as a conservator or guardian of a ward. If the ward is a minor child, the court will appoint conservatorship in the following order:

  • The child’s other parent
  • The person the last surviving parent of the child designated as their guardian, such as in their will
  • The nearest relatives after the parents, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles
  • A non-relative the court deems appropriate

If the ward is an incapacitated adult, the court will appoint a conservator based on the following priority:

  • The person the ward named as their guardian before their incapacitation
  • The ward’s current spouse
  • A non-relative the court deems appropriate

There are also instances where a parent of minor children specifies a conservator in their will, and upon the parent’s passing, their intended conservator either cannot or refuses to become the conservator.

Challenging a Conservator

No matter the reason, if you have major concerns with the conservator of a ward, you need to understand your options for recourse. Once a conservator or guardian has been appointed by the court, to have that person removed from their position, the court will have to terminate the order, provided the ward is still alive.

You will need to petition the court to end the conservatorship, and you can show either of the following:

  • The ward has regained full capacity to make manage their affairs and care for themselves.
  • The ward was a minor and has reached 18 years of age.

For parents of minor children who were deemed to be “incapacitated parents,” they may petition the court to regain conservatorship over their children and obtain parental rights if they can show they are fully rehabilitated from the conditions or circumstances that led to their incapacity.

If you need to take the conservator to court for their inappropriate actions as conservator, talk to your estate litigation lawyer. We’ll listen to the details of your situation and help you determine the best course of action.

Contact Us for Help

The lawyers at Staubus and Randall have extensive experience helping clients throughout Dallas with conservatorship disputes and other estate litigation matters. For help with your issue, you can call us at 214-691-3411 to request a confidential consultation.

The Firm

The attorneys at Staubus and Randall have over 100 years of combined experience in estate planning, probate, and litigation. We have the knowledge and skills to tackle complex legal issues, such as guardianships, will contests, fiduciary litigation, and trust litigation. We can also handle routine matters, such as estate administration, probating wills, heirship determinations, and other probate court matters.

Staubus and Randall received a preeminent AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating possible from a peer-rated legal service. This rating recognizes our hard work, dedication, and the case results we’re able to achieve.

Staubus & Randall Team

What Our Clients Say

"I recently had the occasion to hire Mr. Staubus for a hotly contested Guardianship matter. Mr. Staubus brought a rare combination of effectiveness, reasonableness and understanding of the human element involved. Mr. Staubus handled all things in a calm, highly competent, effective and reasonable way. It could not have been as easy as he made it seem. He's a credit to the Bar."

Jody

"Before retaining the guidance of the Staubus & Randall firm, I was at my wit's end trying to close an uncle's estate as a co-executor. In addition to dealing with difficult heirs, I had other pressing business issues coming up immediately on estate land in the middle of the Eagleford Shale including dealings with pipeline, seismic, oil & gas, and construction companies. The local bank also refused to give me access to information relating to the estate. This quickly became the most stressful and desperate time in my life...and then I found Joseph Legere who truly became my guardian angel. He was able to get all issues resolved efficiently and the estate fully closed. His professionalism, immense legal knowledge on a wide variety of topics, and amazing communication skills took the burdens off of me and quickly got closure. I am forever indebted to this firm for giving me my life back."

Martha

"Without exception, the legal service, professional attitude, prompt communication of your firm and your legal knowledge is second to none. I only wish I had an attorney here in Boston that could hold a candle to your experience and expertise. Working with you has been a pleasure, but even more, has made me believe that there are knowledgeable attorneys that do care about doing a good job. Thank you Keith! You may not truly understand how much of an impact you are having on peoples lives, but for me, you have helped change my life. As I begin making my dreams come true I can't help but remember none of this would be possible without you."

Joann

"Keith Staubus and Julie Blankenship and their team represented me in a jury trial in the probate court where the ownership of the business which I had worked hard to build was at stake. They successfully fought to preserve my business and my professional reputation, working masterfully to gain the support of the jury. I would not hesitate to hire them again in any bet-the-company litigation.”

Karen

"I have required legal representation twice in my life in two separate will contests. Both times I sought assistance from Keith Staubus and Staubus/Randall. Their service, approach, and determination to obtain results exceeded the other attorneys in each case. Mr. Staubus has always come across as genuine while being direct. He gets the process done in a timely manner with results. I will certainly use him again when and if any new challenges arise.”

David

"After my husband's death, I was devastated by having to defend against a vicious dispute over my husband's estate. Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus made me feel very comfortable in this distressing situation. They were very tough and did an excellent job for me in obtaining a summary judgment in my favor without a full jury trial. I was glad to have them and Diane Walker in my corner to help me achieve an excellent result - I won! If I ever had to go back to probate court, I would hire them again.” - (will and trust construction case)

Flo

"If you need intervention for someone you love but don't know where to turn or who to turn to, Julie Blankenship and Keith Staubus helped me through the most difficult and stressful time in my life with a much loved family member. I now believe that good will triumph over evil. They fought for what was right, and good prevailed." (contested guardianship and will contest)

Janet

"As a professional money manager, I have used Ryan Randall's estate planning services both personally and for my clients. Ryan has exhibited three critical attributes in his work with me: (1) high intellectual capacity, (2) exceptional thoroughness, and (3) a total commitment to integrity. In today's litigious world, it can be quite costly not to "get things done right.” An added bonus to us was that we found one of the nicest people we could imagine.”

John

"I was represented by Keith Staubus as an income beneficiary in a lawsuit with the trustee of a family trust. Utilizing the expertise of a forensic accountant and his own trust expertise, Keith was able to negotiate a judicial modification of the trust providing for the buyout of my income interest for a substantial lump sum payment out of the trust, resulting in a win-win situation for all of the parties. I highly recommend Staubus/Randall for any trust disputes and trust modification actions."

Kathy

"I have been a wealth management specialist and retirement plan consultant with the Dallas/Fort Worth financial community for over 20 years. I have engaged Ryan Randall to work with a number of my best clients over the years, including business owners, professionals and families. My clients always appreciate Ryan’s straightforward approach to estate planning, asset protection planning and business succession planning. He makes even the most sophisticated estate planning strategies understandable."

Larry

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