may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re: The Conservatorship of
VivaDelle Whitt, Conservatee.
Filed October 7, 1997
Reversed and remanded
Anoka County District Court
File No. P9-95-10395
James M. Crist, Steinhagen & Crist, P.L.L.P., 5200 Willson Road, Suite 314, Edina, MN 55424-1344 (for Respondent/Conservator)
Considered and decided by Norton, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
Appellant argues that the trial court erred in granting a conservatorship of the person. Appellant contends the trial court's findings are insufficient because they are merely a preprinted recitation of the statutory requirements for conservatorship and fail to incorporate the facts of this case. Although the record supports the conservatorship, the law requires specific written findings in conservatorship cases. We reverse and remand.
Whitt, an 85-year old woman, was diagnosed with advanced dementia. In a physician's statement filed with the court, a doctor believed Whitt should not be living in an unsupervised setting. She failed to make appropriate personal decisions. For example, she was without power for four days when a severe storm caused a tree limb to fall on her house; she neglected to call NSP or anyone else for help. Whitt also failed to make appropriate medical decisions. For example, she had expensive hospital tests duplicated and visited the emergency room despite having no medical problems. Her testimony at the hearing was confused and nonresponsive. For example, she testified that she sees her brother and that he lives in Lindstrom. Her brother, however, died a month before the hearing. Whitt also testified that she owns two homes despite the fact that she lost the homes in bankruptcy proceedings.
Notwithstanding Lundgaard, Wilson alleges the conservatorship must be affirmed because the record as a whole supports the conservatorship. Although the record supports the trial court's decision, this case is indistinguishable from Lundgaard. A conservatorship requires written findings, even if the record independently supports it. Id.
Wilson also argues that the trial court made specific oral findings that obviate written findings. We are not persuaded. Although Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 authorizes courts to look at both written findings and oral findings of the trial court, the conservatorship statute refers specifically to "written findings of fact." Minn. Stat. § 525.551, subd. 5 (emphasis added). Generally, statutes of specific application preempt statutes of general application when a conflict arises, and the court cannot give each statute full effect. Beck v. Groe, 245 Minn. 28, 41, 70 N.W.2d 886, 895 (1955). Thus, in a conservatorship case, oral findings are insufficient.
Finally, Wilson contends that, because a finding of incapacity was made earlier in a proceeding for conservatorship of estate, a separate finding of incapacity is unnecessary here. We disagree. Conservatorship of an estate requires a lower standard for incapacitation than conservatorship of a person. Compare Minn. Stat. § 525.54, subd. 3 (1996) (requiring that, for conservatorship of estate, person must lack only sufficient understanding or capacity to make responsible decisions concerning person's estate or financial affairs) with Minn. Stat. § 525.54, subd. 2 (requiring for conservatorship of person that adult lack sufficient understanding to make or communicate responsible decisions for self and demonstrate inability to meet personal needs for food, clothing, shelter, safety, or medical care). Thus, the findings regarding Whitt's conservatorship of the estate are not pertinent to the present case regarding conservatorship of her person.
In conclusion, Lundgaard requires a remand for specific written findings that incorporate the facts of this case. We note for the record that Wilson is equally responsible for promulgating generic findings. At oral argument, counsel for Wilson stated that he drafted the findings of fact that the trial court ultimately adopted. Public policy mandates officers of the court - attorneys and judges - to articulate the facts considered in granting a conservatorship. Both the conservatee and the public need evidence that the trial court did not take lightly the decision to grant a conservatorship.
Reversed and remanded.