A woman recently came in to our office seeking assistance with a Conservatorship for her 83-year old father. He had moved into a nice retirement community in the East Bay after her mother died six years before. Our client visited her father often, and she was consistently impressed with the facility—the people who lived there were friendly and warm, the staff was helpful, kind and upbeat. They provided two healthy meals/day and activities that helped keep residents active and engaged.
Her father was a nonparticipant, frail and alone
Yet her father lived a solitary existence–he had made no friends and ate his meals alone. He had become very frail, was losing weight and had trouble with his balance. He’d had several bad falls, and while he had not broken any bones, he was badly bruised. She was afraid that if he fell and no one was around, he would not be able to get up. She suspected he was not eating and that he was drinking, sometimes heavily, which created a precarious balance with his medications.
Most troubling: her father’s irrational spending
Our client was afraid her father would deplete his savings and run out of money. While he rarely drove anywhere, he had bought five new cars within the last three years. He quickly found something wrong—they were too expensive or used too much gas–and traded them in. He didn’t need a car—a shuttle took him everywhere he needed to go, but it’s difficult for seniors to give up the vehicles that represent independence. He also had become addicted to the state lottery and the sweepstakes advertised in magazines. He was convinced that he was going to be a big-time winner and spent a significant amount of money every week.
Our client wanted to get a Conservatorship so that she could control her father’s financial accounts and stop his spending. She hoped to end the cycle of new-car purchases and control the amount of alcohol he was consuming. It was her plan to give her father a small weekly allowance that also would help manage his sweepstakes addiction.
Conservatorship: an appropriate option for someone who is incapacitated, frail or ill
Our client’s father was unable to manage his own affairs to the point where he was endangering his own life and wellbeing. When the court chooses a Conservator, that person is responsible to the Court and takes on certain responsibilities.
The money and property the Conservatee owns make up the “Estate”. As the Conservator of her father’s estate, our client became responsible for:
- Making a plan to ensure his financial needs are met.
- Identifying all of the assets in his estate.
- Managing his finances, paying bills, investing money and keeping financial records.
- Protecting his income and property and making sure he gets all the benefits to which he is eligible.
- Preparing and filing his taxes on time.
As her father’s Conservator, she also had an ongoing duty to report to the court for regular reviews.
The process for setting up a Conservatorship can be a long one.
- Starting the CThe process begins with filling out the paperwork to petition the court.
- Completing the petition.The petition must include information about the proposed Conservator and Conservatee, the petitioner and the reasons why a Conservatorship is necessary.
- Filing the petition.The petitioner files the petition with the court clerk and must pay the filing fee, plus a court investigator fee.
- Scheduling a court date. Getting on the court calendar.
- Informing the proposed Conservatee.The petitioner must have someone else personally deliver a citation and a copy of the petition to the proposed Conservatee.
- Informing the proposed Conservatee’s relatives.The petitioner must have someone else mail a written notice about the court hearing on the Conservatorship petition, together with a copy of the petition, to the Conservatee’s spouse or domestic partner and close relatives. In our client’s case, she and her sister were the only remaining relatives, the notice was sent to her sister, who lives in Chicago.
- Investigation by a court investigator.The court appoints an investigator who will talk to the proposed Conservatee and others who are familiar with his/her condition. This is an important step to ensure that there is no evidence of elder abuse or other effort to take advantage of someone who is unable to care for him/herself.
- The hearing. The proposed Conservatee must attend the hearing unless he or she is excused because of incapacity. At the hearing, a judge will review the case and either grant or deny the Conservatorship. If the judge grants the petition, an order appointing the Conservator will be filed and Letters of Conservatorship will be issued. If there is an estate, a surety bond must be filed unless the court orders the Conservatee’s bank accounts to be frozen.
Conservatorships are becoming more common as the baby boomer generation deals with their aging parents. If you need assistance with a Conservatorship for a family member, contact DP Legal Solutions today to schedule an appointment: 510.346.5686