Monday, November 23, 2015

A useful tool for Oregon conservators, executors and personal representatives

A court appointed conservator for a disabled person or personal representative (executor) in an estate faces a lot of bookkeeping. All income and expenses have to be reported to the court with supporting documentation. In Multnomah County and some other counties, court appointed fiduciaries are required to take a class from Guardian Partners in order to get them started on the right path with the court requirements.

A fiduciary reporting to the court is required to report income and expenses on separate charts. The court rule refers to income as "receipts" and expenses as "disbursements," and I will do the same in this post. A fiduciary must provide the court with a chart of receipts and disbursements for every account owned by the estate or the protected person.  The accounts have to be reconciled in a particular manner. The "ending balance" on the disbursements page must match the ending balance on the corresponding bank statement and the total from the receipts sheet must equal the total on the disbursements sheet.

The accounting method required by the court is neither intuitive nor is it what people are used to. Regular folks use a check register style of accounting in which deposits and payments are recorded on the same document with a running balance kept on the far right of the register.

I have made an attempt at bridging the two styles by creating spreadsheets that have a check register as the first page, a court-style receipts account on the second sheet and a court-style disbursements sheet on the third. With my documents, the fiduciary can keep a check register for each account and, when it is time to report to the court, quickly move the information from the register to the court approved forms.

Unfortunately, spreadsheet programs do not always play well together and people tend to be very loyal to their favorite office software. So let me start with the best.

If you have signed up for Gmail or Google apps, you can use Google Sheets. Using a function available in Google sheets, I have developed a spreadsheet that populates the forms required by the court as you enter numbers in the check register. This means that the charts of receipts and disbursements are ready to submit at any time. (Of course the ending balance must match the bank statement, but the spreadsheet itself is always ready for submission). You can copy this template to your computer (or Google Drive folder) here. Once you have it, fill in the case and account information at the top of the sheet and you are ready to start entering numbers. As you do so, the numbers will be automatically be entered on the receipts and disbursements charts.

If you are not a Google user things will not be quite as easy. In the spreadsheet programs of OpenOffice and Microsoft Office I cannot get the receipts and disbursements sheets to populate with data as the check register is filled out, but I can make it easy to transfer numbers from one to the other. I use OpenOffice in my practice because the word processor connects painlessly to the database. My OpenOffice spreadsheet is here. You need to download it to an appropriate place on your computer and use it as a template for your case. You fill out the case and account information and then enter your receipts and disbursements in the check register. (OpenOffice is free and if you want to try using it.). When it is time to report to the court, you will have to cut, paste, and sort the information from the check register onto the receipts and disbursement sheets. It is not automatic, but it eliminates the need to manually transfer individual entries from one form to another.

Many people use Microsoft Office's Excel. The Excel check register works exactly as in OpenOffice. You will need to cut, paste and sort when you want to submit to the court. The Excel version is here. You need to download, copy, rename, and use it for as many accounts as you want.

No matter which one you choose to use, you will need to make a separate sheet for each account held by the estate or conservatorship, enter the account name and number, and thereafter enter deposits and payments in the check register as they occur. In Google, the form required by the court will be ready at any time. In OpenOffice and Microsoft Office, you or your lawyer will need to do some cutting and pasting, but the creation of the court approved form should take no more than a few minutes.