Approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and over have experienced some form of elder abuse. Many adults, regardless of age have undergone abuse at the hands of a loved one. Sadly, a common form of such abuse involves money. While adults at any age can fall victim, seniors are often the targets of fraudulent actions, and sometimes those actions are perpetrated by relatives.
Where an elderly individual loses mental and physical abilities, it can become difficult to pay bills, buy food and medicines, monitor savings, and pay attention to other financial matters. They become unable to protect themselves financially. In these situations, where no validly-drafted power of attorney is in place, the solution may be the appointment of a conservator.
While public conservatorships can be a costly expense, in the absence of a suitable and willing loved one, a court-appointed professional may be necessary. Oftentimes, however, a friend, loved one or family member may be more appropriate. Such individuals typically understand the individual and family dynamics better than a professional/court-appointed conservator. Plus, the loved one will likely serve without payment (as is often required by law). In any of these situations, when it comes to finances we all need protection.
Where one becomes unable to protect himself, a representative is necessary. If your loved one is in need of such support, and no power of attorney is in place, consider the following three facts surrounding conservatorship before pursuing the courts:
Conservatorships protect monetary matters only.
While guardianships are designed to look after an individual’s health matters, conservators oversee the financial affairs. These matters may include one or more of the following: rent payments, bill payments, prescription, food and shelter costs and other personal financial duties. The conservator will become the manager of all financial matters involving the individual and will also have to provide a detailed report to the court and the individual’s “interested parties.” In many states, the terms conservator and guardian are used interchangeably, so it is important to understand the right definition for you specific needs. Our office will gladly help you understand the difference between the two while you pursue the appropriate appointment.
Private conservators have vested interests
With conservatorships, the court is looking to appoint someone to manage incapacitated individual’s income, property, savings and other financial-related matters. During this process, the court appoints an attorney to investigate the situation. In some cases, the court will also appoint an attorney to represent the incapacitated or disabled individual’s interest. In every case, the potential conservator will be investigated by the court to determine if the person is suitable and willing to serve. Most courts prefer to appoint a family member or close loved one. Such persons have vested interests in the individual, and is familiar with the individual’s family and financial dynamics.
Where no suitable or willing person is available, or in cases of missteps by the loved one petitioning for appointment, the court will certainly appoint a professional conservator. This could prove disastrous for the individual who would have opposed such public appointment if he/she were able to do so. On many cases our attorneys have been hired to clear up such situations of professional appointment where the original petitioner (the loved one) took a “bad step” trying to do the “right thing.” Had they consulted with an expert attorney prior to petitioning, the resulting disaster could have been avoided. Therefore, we cannot emphasize enough the urgency in seeking assistance and/or advice from a qualified attorney before pursuing conservatorships. It could save you significant financial and emotional costs.
Fidicuary matters require someone who is trustworthy
According to a Los Angeles Times article titled “For Most Vulnerable, a Promise Abandoned,” many incapacitated or disabled individuals have been neglected and robbed of their money due to unlawful acts perpetrated by court-appointed conservators. For such reasons, courts are typically adamant about appointing someone, whether publicly or someone from the family, that is proven capable of handling the responsibility with integrity. It’s therefore necessary for you to be diligent about identifying the most appropriate person for the job, prior to your pursuit. This will require a healthy understanding of the legal tests that the court will follow in making such decisions. An expert probate attorney will work with you and your family to ensure that right person will be appointed.
Ultimately, bills must be paid, money must be managed, and having funds for an emergency is always a good idea. Who will you trust to handle your monies when you cannot do so?
The three reasons outlined above are only a few reasons why you should consider a conservator, and why it is our recommendation that you consult with an attorney before beginning the process. Our attorneys at The TGQ Law Firm are very experienced and trained in matters of conservatorship. Contact our office for more information on conservatorships today. Whatever you do, please do not wait until your family member or friend cannot handle his or her financial affairs alone. Look into the benefits of appointing an appropriate representative right away!