Maine Conservator Bond: A Comprehensive Guide
This guide provides information for insurance agents to help their customers obtain a Maine Conservator bond.
At a Glance:
- Average Cost: Calculated based on a tiered structure
- Bond Amount: Determined on a case-by-case basis (more on this later)
- Who Needs It: Most conservators appointed as fiduciaries in Maine
- Purpose: To ensure the protected person receives compensation for financial harm if the conservator mismanages their estate
- Who Regulates Conservator Bonds in Maine: The probate court in the county where the protected person resides or has property
Maine Statute 5-401 requires all conservators to be appointed by a court before assuming their fiduciary duties. The Maine legislature enacted the appointment requirement to ensure conservators act in the protected person’s best interests when managing their estate. To provide financial security for the enforcement of this requirement, most conservators must purchase and maintain a probate surety bond before becoming appointed as a fiduciary.
What is the Purpose of the Maine Conservator Bond?
Maine requires most conservators to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to being appointed as a fiduciary over an estate. The bond ensures that the protected person and all persons interested in their estate will receive compensation for financial harm if the conservator fails to abide by the regulations outlined in Maine Statutes 5-416 and 5-417. Specifically, the bond protects the individual if the conservator fails to adhere to all court orders or mismanages the estate’s assets.
For example, if a conservator uses money from the protected person’s bank account to pay for unauthorized expenses or mixes the estate’s funds with their own, the protected person can file a claim against the conservator’s bond to recoup their losses. In short, the bond is a type of insurance that protects the individual if the conservator does not fulfill their fiduciary duties.
How Can an Insurance Agent Obtain a Maine Conservator Bond?
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How is the Bond Amount Determined?
Maine Statute 5-416 dictates that the bond amount must equal the aggregate capital value of the estate’s property under the conservator’s control plus the estimated income to be generated by the estate over the next year.
The bond amount may be reduced by the value of any deposited assets that cannot be withdrawn without a court order or any land that the conservator can not sell without authorization from the court. Conservators that do not wish to purchase a bond may request to submit another form of collateral instead, such as a pledge of securities or a mortgage of land.
Can the Bond Amount be Adjusted?
Yes, as Maine Statute 5-415 allows for any person interested in the welfare of the protected person to petition the court to adjust the required bond amount or require an additional bond if they deem one necessary. The court will have the final say in making any changes to the required bond amount.
What are the Underwriting Requirements for the Maine Conservator Bond?
Most surety companies will examine the following factors when determining eligibility for the Maine Conservator bond:
- Conservator’s credit history
- Whether or not the estate has an attorney
- Whether or not the conservator is a family member
- The conservator’s occupation
- Whether or not the conservator is replacing a prior fiduciary
- If the conservator has ever committed a felony
- Whether or not there is any ongoing business in the estate
- If a creditor is requiring the bond
- If the bond amount is greater than or equal to the estate’s value
How Much Does the Maine Conservator Bond Cost?
Surety companies typically determine the premium rate for Conservator bonds based on a tiered structure, so larger bond amounts will be charged a lower premium rate than smaller bonds.
The following table illustrates the pricing structure for the Maine Conservator bond:
$1,500,000 Conservator Bond Cost
|Bond Amount||Premium Rate||Total Bond Cost|
|Total cost of $4,715|
Who is Required to Purchase the Bond?
Maine requires most conservators to purchase a surety bond as a prerequisite to becoming a court-appointed fiduciary. To paraphrase Maine Statute 5-102, a “conservator” is an individual or organization appointed as a fiduciary to manage and make decisions for a person’s care and/or property. Likewise, a “protected person” is a minor or incapacitated adult for whom a conservator has been appointed and a “respondent” is a minor or incapacitated adult for whom a conservatorship is being sought.
Conservators are not required to purchase a surety bond, unless explicitly required by the court, in the following situations:
- The conservator is a public conservator
- The conservator is the spouse of the protected person
- If the protected person’s estate is worth less than $50,000
- The court finds that a surety bond is not necessary to protect the interests of the estate
- The conservator is a regulated financial service institution qualified to do trust business in Maine
In lieu of a surety bond, the court may order the conservator to furnish an alternative asset-protection arrangement.
How do Maine Conservators Become Appointed as Fiduciaries?
Conservators in Maine must navigate several steps to become appointed as fiduciaries. Below are the general guidelines, but appointees should refer to the appointment statutes or the Maine Probate Court’s website for details on the process.
Step 1 – Hire an Attorney
Although not explicitly required, it is highly recommended that conservators hire an attorney to assist with the conservatorship process.
Step 2 – Determine Priority
Priority to serve as a conservator is granted in the following order:
- Persons already appointed as a fiduciary over the respondent in another jurisdiction
- An individual or corporation nominated by the respondent, including a nomination in a power of attorney for finances
- An agent appointed by the respondent to manage their property under a power of attorney for finances
- The spouse or domestic partner of the respondent
- The adult child of the respondent
- The parent of the respondent or a person nominated in the deceased parent’s will
- A family member who has exhibited special care and concern for the respondent
The court will appoint the conservator best suited for the individual and may choose to appoint a person with lower priority or without priority. Persons are ineligible for appointment as a conservator if they are a person that provides paid services to the respondent or if they are an employee or relative of an individual who provides paid services to the respondent. An owner, operator, or employee of a long-term care facility that provides care to the respondent is also ineligible for appointment unless they are related to the respondent by blood, marriage, or adoption.
Step 3 – File a Petition for Appointment
Persons seeking a conservatorship over a respondent must file a petition for appointment with the probate court in the county where the respondent resides or owns property. Petitioners can obtain the necessary forms online here or from the court, and must ensure they complete the form in its entirety to avoid delays in the proceedings.
The respondent, the guardian of the respondent, or any person interested in the respondent’s estate, financial affairs, or welfare may petition the court to begin a conservatorship. In conservatorship cases of an adult, the petitioner and the respondent must be interviewed by a court-appointed visitor who will prepare a report to be used as evidence in the hearing.
Step 4 – Attend a Hearing
Conservators must attend a hearing conducted by the court and present evidence as to why the respondent is in need of conservatorship. The court will examine the evidence presented by the conservator as well as that presented by the individual being evaluated (if any) and make a determination as to whether or not conservatorship is necessary.
Any interested person can apply to the court to participate in the hearing. If the court finds a basis for the appointment, it will issue a letter of conservatorship to the petitioner.
Step 5 – Purchase a Surety Bond
Unless otherwise exempt, conservators must purchase and maintain a surety bond (limits outlined above).
How do Maine Conservators File Their Bonds?
Conservators should file their completed bond forms, including the power of attorney, to the clerk of the probate court of the county where the protected person resides or owns property.
The surety bond requires signatures, including witness signatures, from the surety company that issues the bond, the applicant, and the register of probate. The surety company should include the following information on the bond form:
- Legal name and address of the entity/individual(s) buying the bond
- Legal name and county of the protected person
- Surety company’s legal name, address, and telephone number
- Date the bond is signed
- Bond amount
- Court docket number
What can Maine Conservators do to Avoid Claims Made Against Their Bonds?
To avoid claims against their bonds, conservators in Maine must ensure that they:
- Perform all of their fiduciary duties
- Obey all court orders
- Do not mismanage the estate’s property
- Obtain court approval before using any of the estate’s funds