Keeping the Protected Person's Property Safe
If the protected person has a separate guardian and conservator, the conservator is primarily responsible for keeping the protected person's property safe, but the guardian shares some of this responsibility. The guardian is responsible for the protected person's clothing, furniture and other personal effects. If the protected person has other property that a guardian is not authorized to manage and protect, the guardian should petition the court to appoint a conservator. Utah Code Section 75-5-312. For more information and forms, see our page on Procedure for Appointing a Conservator for an Adult.
Remember that you are using the protected person's money and property for the protected person's benefit, but the protected person still owns the money and property. Keep them safe, and keep them separate from your personal and business money and property.
Part of keeping property safe is deciding whether to keep it or sell it. There is no formula, but there are factors to consider and weigh. Whether a factor is relevant or how much weight to give it will depend on the protected person's circumstances. Something you think is junk may be important to the protected person. You may want to consider the following factors, or any others that you think are important:
- Does the protected person want to keep or sell the property? (The need to sell property that the protected person wants to keep is very difficult. Even discussing it with the protected person will cause stress, but it is important to do so.)
- Does the protected person use the property?
- Does the property have important sentimental value?
- Does the protected person plan to give the property to a specified person when the protected person dies? (Selling something the protected person wants to give to someone when the protected person dies affects the protected person's estate plan. For more information see our page on Managing the protected person's property, the sections on Selling estate assets and Preserving the estate plan.)
- Can the protected person afford the cost to maintain, protect or insure the property?
- Does selling the property provide cash that the protected person needs for care?
Important papers should be kept in a safe deposit box or other place safe from fire and water damage:
- the protected person's will, trust or other estate planning documents;
- the protected person's advance healthcare directive;
- stock certificates;
- real property deeds;
- vehicle registration documents;
- promissory notes (IOUs);
- insurance policies;
- birth, marriage and death certificates;
- the protected person's passport;
- any documents concerning arrangements for funeral, burial, cremation or donation; and
- any other papers that would be hard or impossible to replace.
If you keep important papers in a safe deposit box, keep copies handy to show or provide to others, because the bank may be closed when you need a document.
If the protected person does not have a safe deposit box and needs one, rent a separate box. Even though it would save a little money, do not put the protected person's important papers and valuable items in your own safe deposit box or in that of any other person. This is an example of mixing the protected person's property with that of another, and it is prohibited.
A safe deposit box can be convenient for small valuable items, such as jewelry that the protected person does not keep in his or her immediate possession.
If the protected person is living at home, s/he may continue to have need for much or all of his or her personal property, like furniture, art, tools, appliances, recreational and entertainment equipment and the like. And, even if not much used, the home is probably the least expensive option for storing the property, if it can be done safely. For insurance purposes, you will have the inventory and annual reports that must be filed with the court. You can also take photos or make a video of all valuable items.
Insure property that is normally insured. If the protected person does not need an insured item, consider selling it and canceling the insurance. You should also consider insuring any items that are not covered by the protected person's renter's or home owner's insurance policy or selling what is not needed. Review all insurance policies to see whether they are still needed.
A pet may be extremely important to the protected person. If the protected person moves to a residential facility, try to find one that allows residents to have pets or allows visits by pets. If the pet cannot live with the protected person, arrange for shelter, food, water, exercise and medical care for the pet.
The appointment of a guardian or conservator does not necessarily deprive the protected person of the privilege of driving a car, but, like any other driver, the protected person must meet the minimum requirements for having a driver license.
If the protected person has a car and s/he is still able to drive, make sure that s/he has a valid driver license, that the vehicle is registered and insured for damage to the car and any liability that might arise. Don't let anyone else use the protected person's car except to benefit the protected person (such as to take the protected person to the doctor). If the protected person does not need a car, consider selling it and canceling the insurance.
If it is unsafe for the protected person to drive, contact the Driver License Division of the Department of Public Safety to have a driver's license revoked and to have an identification card issued. You can also take practical steps to prevent the protected person from driving, like taking away the keys or selling or disabling the car.
If (1) you know that it is unsafe for the protected person to drive, and (2) you do not take reasonable steps to prevent him or her from driving, and (3) s/he gets into an accident and gets hurt or hurts others, you may be legally responsible because you were not reasonably careful in carrying out your duties.
For a discussion of driving, see Dementia & Driving Resource Center published by the Alzheimer's Association or We Need to Talk, a free online seminar for talking with older drivers, published by AARP.
If the protected person owns other vehicles, like a boat, recreational vehicle or second car, You will want to make similar decisions: Should you keep or sell the vehicle? If you decide to keep the vehicle, you are responsible for its title, registration, insurance, maintenance and protection.