Legal Memorandum: Powers of a Conservator over a Conservatee

Issue: What is the extent of a conservator’s powers over a conservatee under Minnesota law?

Area of Law: Estate Planning & Probate, Family Law
Keywords: Conservator's powers; Conservatee
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 611 N.Y.S.2d 743; 385 N.W.2d 31; 603 N.W.2d 357; 607 N.W.2d 781; 925 P.2d 103; 11 S.W.3d 831; 357 N.W.2d 332; 535 N.W.2d 677; 118 Or. App. 407; 167 Wis. 2d 53; 562 N.W.2d 522; 847 P.2d 892
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 525.56
Date: 09/01/2000

In In re Conservatorship of Torres, 357 N.W.2d 332 (Minn. 1984), the court addressed a question of first impression and adopted the position that a probate court and the probate court appointed conservator have the power to order the termination of a conservatee’s life support systems.  The court noted that every jurisdiction that has considered the issue of a person in a coma without hope of recovery has permitted a guardian to assert the right of the incompetent to order the disconnection of life supports.  Id. at 336; see also In re Guardianship of L.W., 167 Wis. 2d 53, 482 N.W.2d 60 (1992) (full discussion and history of allowing conservator to order termination of life supports).

Although the Minnesota courts have allowed probate court appointed conservators to terminate life supports, the courts have placed limitations on a conservator’s power to consent to certain types of medical treatment.  In In re Conservatorship of  Foster, 535 N.W.2d 677 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995), the court referred to Minn. Stat. § 525.56 which requires a conservator to seek court approval before consenting to a conservatee receiving psychosurgery, electroshock, sterilization and experimental treatment.  Id. at 679.

Minnesota courts have granted conservators the power to establish a conservatee’s place of abode within or without the state of Minnesota.  In re Brady, 607 N.W.2d 781 (Minn. 2000).  However, the conservator is "subject to the control and direction of the court at […]

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