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How to Protect Your Aging Parent  (or other loved one)

Watching your parents grow old can be a very bittersweet and sometimes painful emotional process. It can also become a time-consuming process as our aging parents need our help more and more. Most of us are busy working to support our own families and are left with very little time to take care of our aging parents. This article will explain what a Conservatorship is and how it can help you to protect your aging parent (or any other elderly relative or friend who needs protection).

What is a Conservatorship?

Conservatorship Lawyer - Family Viewing Computer PhotoA conservatorship is a legal device designed to protect adults who can no longer take care of themselves or manage their money. A conservator is appointed by the Court to take care of the Conservatee as follows:

  • A conservator of the person is appointed when a person is unable to properly provide for his/her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter.

  • A conservator of the estate is appointed when a person is substantially unable to manage his/ her own financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence.  Once a conservator of the estate is appointed, the conservatee can no longer enter into contracts except for basic necessities.

  • A conservator for both the person and estate is appointed when both conditions exist. Different people can act as conservator of the estate and conservator of the person; or the same person can act as both.

An adult who is subject to a conservatorship is called a conservatee. Anyone can petition the Court for the appointment of a conservator for an incompetent adult.

Who Acts as Conservator?

The Conservator appointed can be either you, another family member or friend, or a private professional conservator. Private professional conservators are often appointed where there is no family member or friend available with sufficient time to take care of the conservatee.

Private professional conservators care for elderly adults for a fee.  They are licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Professional Fiduciaries Bureau.  In order to be licensed, the professional fiduciary must pass an examination, complete 30 hours of approved education courses, and continue to complete 15 hours of continuing education credit each year to renew their license.  Professional fiduciaries undergo a thorough background check, including fingerprinting with the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation federal summary criminal history information, and must follow a strict Code of Ethics.  License verification checks can be performed at www.fiduciary.ca.gov.

Private professional conservators charge anywhere from $75/hour to $150/hour for their services. They often delegate some of their more time-consuming work to their staff at more affordable hourly rates. For example, when conservatees wish to stay in their home, professional conservators often need to hire companions or caretakers to live with the conservatee and provide 24-hour care.

Over the years, Wright Kim Douglas has established a network of reliable, excellent private professional conservators that we can confidently refer our clients to.  Please ask us for a referral should your situation require the use of a private professional conservator.

And be assured that should you choose to act as conservator yourself, the experienced attorneys and staff at Wright Kim Douglas will be there guiding you every step of the way.

How a Conservatorship Works to Protect the Conservatee

Conservatorships are court-supervised proceedings making them the safest way to protect your aging parent. The following are some of the more important conservatorship features:

  • Regardless of whether the conservator is professional or not, the Court looks over her shoulder throughout the entire process by requiring annual accountings. These annual accountings include detailed financial records of all money spent. The accounting must be mailed to close family members and certain other interested parties who may object to any item in the accounting.

  • Before the conservatorship is instituted and every year thereafter, the Court sends out a Court Investigator to visit the conservatee and check up on his health and living conditions.

  • Before psychotropic medications can be administered to a conservatee or before a conservatee may be placed in a secured facility, the conservator must petition the Court for authority to do so.  Psychotropic medications are strong mind-altering drugs used in the care and treatment of dementia.  Secured facilities are those that lock their patients in.

  • Every conservator of the estate must furnish a bond which insures that the conservatee has a remedy in case her assets are jeopardized by carelessness or fraud by the conservator.

  • If an elderly person is so incapacitated that they can no longer give informed consent to medical treatment, then the Court will grant the conservator the power to give the consent. Thus, the conservator can order medical treatment over the conservatee’s objections.

  • Before selling a conservatee’s home, the conservator must discuss the matter with the conservatee and report the results to the court as well as explain why the home must be sold.  The conservator must then petition and obtain the Court’s approval of the sale.

  • The conservator can be removed at any time if he is not performing his duties properly.  The conservator can also be surcharged for any damage he may have caused the conservatee or her estate.

Elder Abuse is a Growing Trend and Quick Action is Sometimes Needed

Many people tell us they feel guilty taking control over their parents or they are afraid to anger their parents who used to be strong, self-sufficient individuals. They hesitate before taking action to protect their parents. Sadly, sometimes it is too late when action is finally taken.

Elder abuse does happen. In fact, it has become a growing trend as our population ages. Sometimes the abuse or neglect by a caretaker can lead to death. A new “friend” can bilk your parents out of their life savings in a matter of days. Keep a close eye on your parents as they age, especially when they reach their 70s and 80s.

Your elderly parents can be stubborn and hesitant to relinquish control of their person or estate. However, just remember that conservatorships are a powerful tool.  If needed, a conservator can be appointed even over the elderly person’s objection.

We can act as quickly as one week to protect your parents: a temporary conservatorship can be instituted upon 5-days notice.  If needed, a restraining order can be obtained within 24-hours.

Please review the list of Common Signs that a Conservatorship is Needed below.  Watch for these signs carefully and be prepared to act quickly should any new “friend” enter into the picture.  And know that we here at Wright Kim Douglas will be ready to act quickly for you once the time has come.

Common Signs that a Conservatorship is Needed

  • The onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Watch for memory loss and behavior or mood changes.

  • Change in gift-giving behavior; i.e. suddenly giving money away to new friends or strangers, especially when used to be frugal with money previously.

  • Extremely unkept home with pack-rat, sometimes unlivable conditions.  Oftentimes such conditions become a fire hazard and authorities are notified.

  • Sudden or recent reliance on a new friend or stranger for basic, daily needs and for managing their finances.

WATCH OUT FOR THESE SIGNS CAREFULLY!  There are many unscrupulous individuals out there who prey on the elderly. Don’t let it be your parents. Intervene with a conservatorship before it’s too late.  If any of these signs are happening to your parents (or any other elderly relative or friend), call us at Wright Kim Douglas today:  (626) 356-3900 and setup an appointment to see us in our Glendale California office.

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