How do you establish a conservatorship for an adult family member in Michigan?

Understanding Conservatorship in Michigan

Establishing a conservatorship is a legal process that involves appointing an individual (the conservator) to manage the financial affairs of another person (the protected person) who is unable to do so due to certain conditions such as minority, mental impairment, or physical incapacity. In Michigan, the process is governed by the Michigan Probate Code, specifically under MCL 700.5401.

Steps to Establish a Conservatorship

  1. Filing a Petition: The process begins with filing a petition for conservatorship with the probate court in the county where the adult family member resides. The petition must include detailed information about the individual's condition and why a conservatorship is necessary.
  2. Medical Evaluation: A medical evaluation by a qualified professional may be required to establish the family member's condition and their inability to manage their own financial affairs.
  3. Notice of Hearing: After the petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing. Notice of the hearing must be provided to the individual in question, their immediate family members, and any other interested persons.
  4. Court Hearing: During the hearing, the judge will hear evidence from all interested parties. The individual who is subject of the petition has the right to be present at the hearing and can be represented by an attorney.
  5. Appointment of Conservator: If the judge determines that a conservatorship is necessary, they will appoint a suitable conservator. The conservator could be a family member, friend, or a professional fiduciary.

Responsibilities and Oversight

A conservator is responsible for managing the financial affairs of the protected person. This includes paying bills, managing assets, and making investment decisions. The conservator must report to the court regularly on the status of the finances. They are also under court supervision to ensure that they are acting in the best interest of the protected person.

Historical Reference

A notable historical reference regarding conservatorships occurred with Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), a landmark case where the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that states are required under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to provide an attorney to defendants in criminal cases who are unable to afford their own attorneys. This case underscored the importance of legal representation for those who may not fully understand or be able to participate in legal proceedings – a principle that extends into probate law and reinforces why individuals subject to conservatorship proceedings are afforded legal representation.


The process of establishing a conservatorship in Michigan requires meticulous attention to legal detail and procedural protocol. It serves as a protective measure for those who cannot manage their financial affairs due to incapacitation. With careful adherence to Michigan law, families can ensure that their loved ones are provided with competent management of their finances under court supervision.