This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re: Conservatorship of
Dewey P. Wallace.
Filed November 13, 2007
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 27-GC-PR-06-373
Thomas Bennett Wilson III, Wilson Law Firm, 5209 Lochloy Drive, Edina, MN 55436 (for respondent Alternate Decision Makers, Inc.)
David L. Kraker,
Amy Schmidt, 25596 101st Street, Zimmerman, MN 55398 (pro se respondent)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court’s order of appointment of a conservator for the estate of her long-time companion. Because we determine that the district court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.
Respondent Dewey P. Wallace suffered from a series of strokes beginning in 2002, including a severe stroke in August 2005 that required hospitalization. In early March 2006, Wallace entered a nursing home. Shortly thereafter, pro se appellant Janice Schmidt, Wallace’s live-in companion for 40 years, filed a petition to establish a guardianship for Wallace.
In early July 2006, the district court appointed respondent Alternative Decision Makers, Inc. (ADM), a professional fiduciary corporation, as Wallace’s guardian. Stephen Grisham was the ADM representative who oversaw the administration of the guardianship. After learning that Schmidt had allowed several of Wallace’s nursing‑home bills to become delinquent, Grisham petitioned the district court to appoint ADM as the conservator of Wallace’s estate as well. Schmidt objected to the appointment, claiming that Grisham “has lied” and that she “[does not] trust him.” The district court appointed ADM as the conservator of Wallace’s estate, and Schmidt now appeals.
D E C I S I O N
The district court has broad powers in appointing a conservator, and its decision will not be interfered with absent a clear abuse of discretion. In re Conservatorship of Lundgaard, 453 N.W.2d 58, 63 (Minn. App. 1990). The district court may appoint a conservator of an individual’s estate if the court determines that:
(i) by clear and convincing evidence, the individual is unable to manage property and business affairs because of an impairment in the ability to receive and evaluate information or make decisions, even with the use of appropriate technological assistance . . .; and
(ii) by a preponderance of the evidence, the individual has property that will be wasted or dissipated unless management is provided or money is needed for the support, care, education, health, and welfare of the individual . . . .
Minn. Stat. § 524.5-401(2) (2006). The appointment of a conservator also requires a showing that “the [individual’s] identified needs cannot be met by less restrictive means, including use of appropriate technological assistance.” Minn. Stat. § 524.5-409(a)(3) (2006).
On appeal, this court “is limited to determining whether the district court’s findings are clearly erroneous, giving due regard to the district court’s determinations regarding witness credibility.” In re Guardianship of Wells, 733 N.W.2d 506, 510 (Minn. App. 2007), review denied (Minn. Sept. 18, 2007). As long as “there is reasonable evidence to support the [district] court’s findings of fact, a reviewing court should not disturb those findings.” Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999).
In determining that the statutory criteria for appointment of a conservator had been met, the district court found that (1) Wallace “is unable to manage property and business affairs because of impairment in the ability to receive and evaluate information or make decisions, even with the use of appropriate technological assistance”; (2) there was no appropriate alternative to appointment of a conservator, including the use of technological assistance or protective arrangements, that would be less restrictive of Wallace’s civil liberties; (3) Wallace was in need of a conservator to protect his estate; and (4) ADM was the “most suitable and best qualified among those available and willing” to serve as conservator.
On appeal, Schmidt appears to argue both that Wallace does not need a conservator because she can take care of him and that the district court erred by appointing a conservator that, she alleges, is represented by a person who is “dishonest” and part of a conspiracy to “rob” Wallace of his estate. Schmidt presented these same allegations regarding ADM to the district court, but she offered no evidence to support them, and the district court, having had the opportunity to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, found that ADM was “the most suitable and best qualified among those available and willing” to serve as conservator. “[G]iving due regard for the [district] court’s determinations regarding witness credibility,” this court will not disturb the district court’s finding unless there was clear error. See Lundgaard, 453 N.W.2d at 60-61; see also Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (“Findings of fact . . . shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.”).
We find no clear error here. The record supports the district court’s findings that Wallace needs a conservator and that ADM was the “most suitable and best qualified among those available and willing” to serve as conservator. As Wallace’s guardian, ADM, through Grisham, understood Wallace’s circumstances. And the district court found that, because of the “confusion and hostility surrounding” Wallace, “the appointment of an independent, professional fiduciary is needed.” The record shows that ADM has significant experience as a professional fiduciary. The district court did not abuse its discretion by appointing ADM as conservator of Wallace’s estate.