The conseravtor of a protectee — a minor or legally incapacitated adult — controls the finances of the protectee. This extends to an includes a variety of things, including the power to prosecute or defend legal claims. Section 475.130.5 further spells out a variety of powers which can be exercised without court approval:
(1) Settle or compromise a claim against the protectee or the estate agreeing to pay or paying not more than one thousand dollars;
(2) Settle, abandon or compromise a claim in favor of the estate which does not exceed one thousand dollars;
(3) Sell, or agree to sell, chattels and choses in action reasonably worth not more than one thousand dollars for cash or upon terms involving a reasonable extension of credit;
(4) Exchange, or agree to exchange, chattels and choses in action for other such property of equivalent value, not in excess of one thousand dollars;
(5) Insure or contract for insurance of property of the estate against fire, theft and other hazards;
(6) Insure or contract for insurance protecting the protectee against any liability likely to be incurred, including medical and hospital expenses, and protecting the conservator against liability to third parties arising from acts or omissions connected with possession or management of the estate;
(7) Contract for needed repairs and maintenance of property of the estate;
(8) Lease land and buildings for terms not exceeding one year, reserving reasonable rent, and renew any such lease for a like term;
(9) Vote corporate stock in person or by general or limited proxy;
(10) Contract for the provision of board, lodging, education, medical care, or necessaries of the protectee for periods not exceeding one year, and renew any such contract for a like period;
(11) On or after August 28, 2009, invest the estate in accordance with the provisions of section 475.190.
Given these specifically enumerated powers, by implication, everything requires Court approval. Out of an abundance of caution, it is important to obtain Court approval beforehand, rather than after the fact in the annual conservator financial settlement/accounting. The worst thing that can happen is to use conservatorship assets without prior Court approval only to have the Court later determine that it was an improper use of funds.
In addition, if there are regular and re-occurring costs in excess of these limits or outside of these powers, then it may be wise to obtain a Court order which authorizes such expenses on a continuing basis. The conservator must provide for the care of the protectee and expend the funds of the protectee for that purpose. Accordingly, the guiding light for the Court’s approval of expenditures will be whether it is financially in the protectee’s best interests.
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