CONSERVATORSHIP & FINANCIAL ELDER ABUSE
A conservatorship is a protective court proceeding for an adult. In a conservatorship of the person, a court-appointed fiduciary, the conservator, manages the personal care of a person who cannot properly provide for his or her personal needs for physical health, medical care, food, clothing, or shelter. The conservator decides where the conservatee lives and makes medical decisions for the conservatee and may be required to decide whether the conservatee should live at home or in an institution.
In a conservatorship of the estate, the conservator manages the financial affairs of a person who is substantially unable to manage his or her own financial resources or to resist fraud or undue influence. The conservator's primary responsibility is to conserve, manage, and use the conservatee's property in California for the benefit of both the conservatee and those whom he or she is obligated to support.
A conservatorship is subject to continuing court supervision and periodic accountings must be submitted to the court. Fees are allowed to be paid to the conservator or his/her attorney only upon court order (usually upon accounting). In any event, these proceedings are generally expensive and time consuming and, with proper advance planning, avoidable through the use of trusts, advance health care directives, and powers of attorney.
Dealing with the incapacity of a family member or friend can be a difficult and indescribable ordeal involving the analysis and balancing of many interests.
In some instances, conservatorships are contested, often by other family members or the proposed conservatee. They can be a rapid way to thwart financial elder abuse and obtain possible recovery of lost or stolen assets. Spouses, children, brothers, sisters, and other relatives may be parties in conservatorship court proceedings, but may also be beneficiaries or heirs of the proposed conservatee's estate. Those circumstances create many “mine fields,” both monetary and emotional, that must be seriously considered whenever a conservatorship proceeding is contemplated. Our experience leads to reasoned and practical advice in dealing with our clients’ needs in the use of conservatorships and their alternatives.