Minnesota judges have a new tool to hold conservators accountable for how they spend their wards’ money. Starting Jan. 1, conservators will have to file their required financial reports online into a statewide database, rather than in paper records that often sit unexamined in file cabinets.

Conservators are appointed to manage assets for those unable to do so themselves. Revelations of questionable conduct and spending by conservators and guardians, as well as the increasing number of Minnesotans under their authority, have led to tighter scrutiny of these virtually unregulated decisionmakers.

This statewide reporting system, piloted in Ramsey County, is the nation’s first and allows centralized auditing and analysis of conservatorships.