Yes, I know, it’s not easy talking about this topic. It is, however, necessary. In the month preceding the drafting of this article our firm has assisted three different families in their efforts to obtain court appointment of conservators (persons appointed by the court to manage finances and assets for another person) for the benefit of a loved one. Although we were successful in our efforts on each occasion, we were reminded of several steps that must be taken prior to justifying a conservatorship appointment. Below you will find three Quick Questions derived from efforts to seek court authority to handle finances for a loved one:
- Does the loved one NEED help?
When seeking a conservatorship appointment, it is typically essential to establish the individual’s inability to manage his/her property and business affairs effectively due to mental illness, disability, drug use, etc., and that the individual’s assets will be wasted or dissipated as a result. Oftentimes, the court will require a doctor’s opinion in this regard. Our clients were able to secure letters from doctors for this purpose, which played a major role in the appointment process.
- Does the loved one WANT help?
In all cases courts are required to consider the interest of the incapacitated individual. In two of the three cases referenced above, the court relied in part upon the expressed interests of the incapacitated individual regarding who would be appointed. This convinced us that discovering the interests of the loved one is essential in seeking a conservatorship appointment.
- Has the loved one already SECURED help?
Finally, before filing a petition be sure to check to see if the loved one has already designated someone as a financial agent via power of attorney. In our cases the clients filed the petition prior to our involvement. Once hired, we helped the clients discover that powers of attorney had been established appointing them as agents for the management of finances. The discovery of these powers of attorney greatly impacted the courts’ decisions regarding our clients’ appointments.
In short, prior to seeking court appointment to handle the finances of a loved one, it’s important for you to determine the needs interests/wants and prior planning activity of the loved one. Start with the three Quick Questions above and you may discover a simpler path to assisting your loved one during this challenging time of his/her life.
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