Cases Governing Guardianships, Conservatorships and Probate Estates

March 15, 2010 | Erin Herbold


Guardianships and conservatorships are court-ordered legal devices used to protect a person’s personal and financial well-being in the event that they are unable to do so. Typically, these court-supervised arrangements end upon the death of the person they are designed to protect or when the court deems they are no longer necessary.  

In this case, children of an elderly man petitioned the court to establish a guardianship and conservatorship. The court granted their petition based upon evidence of Dad’s inability to properly care for himself and his finances.  Two of Dad’s five children agreed to serve as the guardians and conservators. They performed their duties by filing annual reports, accounting for income and expenses and looking after the general well-being of their father. Upon his death in 2006, the conservators filed a final report and the executors of Dad’s will opened a probate estate. A sister objected to the accounting done by her siblings and the sale of farm real estate under the conservatorship.

At trial, the court held that the sister’s objections should have been raised within the probate estate and dismissed her case. The court noted that Dad’s guardianship and conservatorship ended at his death. On appeal, the Iowa Court of Appeals agreed, citing Iowa Code § 633.678 which states that all assets of a conservatorship should be distributed at death to the persons who are entitled under the will. Thus, the sale of the farm was allowed in this situation, even though the sister may have had a case had she brought suit within the probate estate. In re Guardianship and Conservatorship of Lucas, No. 9-1033/07-1155, 2010 Iowa App. LEXIS 157 (Iowa Ct. App., Mar. 10, 2010).