• Conservator
  • Court appointed guardian
  • Personal representative for wards, protectees and decedents

Jeff Darnell

Public Administrator

Physical Address
100 N Main Street
Poplar Bluff, MO 63901

Phone: 573-686-8078

Who does the Public Administrator Serve?

The Public Administrator acts as the court-appointed guardian and conservator for minor, disabled or incapacitated persons. These individuals are:

  • Mentally or physically disabled
  • Suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • Under 18 and have no one willing or able to care for them
  • Public Administrator’s may be established as a Guardian and/or Conservator to function as a neutral party, when there is conflict surrounding the management of an incapacitated person’s affairs.

Background & Overview

The office of Public Administrator was originally created in 1880 by the Missouri Legislature. Every county in Missouri has Public Administrators and all are elected, except for Jackson, Saint Charles, and Saint Louis Counties, which are appointed positions. Their terms last 4 years and are on the same cycle as the presidential election. Their duties are set forth by RSMo 473.743.


Public Administrators are appointed by Probate Court only. All individuals who want to have a Guardian or Conservator established for them or another must petition the court. Currently the process must be overseen by an attorney who will become the Guardian Ad Litem until the judge rules.


Conservatorship is the management of a minor’s or incapacitated adult’s assets or estate. It does not limit an individual’s freedom like a guardianship and the conservator has no decision-making authority over their conservatee.

Guardian & Conservator Roles

The majority of cases in Missouri, the Public Administrator will be both guardian and conservator for an individual. When a Public Administrator is conservator, only it indicates that the individual lacks the ability to manage their finances and/or their assets can no longer be managed by the family without conflict. This does not mean that the Public Administrators actively look for these cases, but rather the family has hired attorneys to settle their disputes.

Annual Settlement

Every year the Public Administrator must generate and turn in a report to Probate Court. This is known as an annual settlement and it shows the conservatee’s financial status and how their assets were distributed throughout the year.

Failure to Complete Annual Settlement

Failure in completing this report may result in the termination of the conservatorship. The ability do to so rests solely with the judge.


A guardian is one who is entrusted by Probate Court to have custody of a minor or legally incapacitated adult. Once under guardianship the incapacitated individual or minor becomes the protectee or ward of the guardian.

Guardian Responsibilities

The guardian is the party responsible for and has the authority to make decision for their ward(s). This means the guardian will decide the following:

  • When to give consent to medical treatment
  • Where their ward lives
  • Where they go
  • Who they may visit

Importance of Guardianship

Guardian duties are important because the ward has been deemed by the court as unable to care for themselves or evaluate information, and lacks the mental capacity to make decisions. In every case the ward is placed in the least restrictive living environment to enhance their quality of life and give them a reasonable amount of freedom.

Ward Restrictions

When individuals become wards they are limited in what they are allowed to do. They are unable to vote or obtain a driver’s license. They are also unable to enter into any contract, which includes marriage, and do not have the legal power to consent or serve as a witness for trial.

Obtaining a Guardian

  • The process of obtaining a guardian is a legal one.
  • The 1st step is to contact an attorney for representation.
  • The attorney will then petition Probate Court to hear the case for the guardianship.
  • The judge will then decide on setting a hearing, if he/she believes the case to have merit.
  • The judge will rule whether or not the individual needs a guardian at that time. Often times, testimony will be heard and statements from the individual’s doctor or care facility may be admitted as evidence.
  • The judge will consider if the individual is able to live independently, manage their own affairs and finances, or a danger to themselves or others.

Process Time

It may take multiple hearings and several months to establish a guardian.

Ward Restoration

All guardian/conservatorships are terminated on death, but some may be able to be “restored” and deemed by the court to be a whole person once again. Immediately they gain all of their rights and are responsible for their finances.

Restoration Process

Restoration is done by a ward showing progress in an environment that is less and less restrictive. They will eventually be able to live independently, while still being a ward of the Public Administrator.

Taking Initiative

They will also need to take initiative during this process. This initiative takes the form of independently performing regular tasks, such as:

  • Assisting in the process of transitioning into independence
  • Making doctor’s appointments
  • Managing personal spending money
  • Scheduling transportation