For many, the holidays are a time filled with family gatherings, love and laughter. However, it may also be a time when family members first notice that their elderly loved one can no longer continue to care for him/herself. It may be that you notice that Grandma is not paying her bills, is paying her bills twice without realizing it, or is being financially taken advantage of by an overly-involved neighbor. Or perhaps you visit Dad’s house for the first time in several months only to realize that it is in a state of disarray, with garbage and spoiled food strewn about to the extent that it threatens Dad’s physical health and safety.
In the event that an elderly loved one becomes financially incapable or incapacitated, it may be necessary to pursue a conservatorship or guardianship through the court system in order to protect them. A conservatorship gives a court-appointed individual the power and responsibility to manage the property and finances of a financially incapable person. A guardianship authorizes a court-appointed individual to make decisions regarding the physical health and safety of an incapacitated person, such as decisions regarding living arrangements and medical care.
The process of petitioning for a conservatorship or guardianship for an elderly loved one can be emotionally draining on families, particularly since the elderly loved one often objects to such action. It is important to review all alternatives, such as whether there is a valid power of attorney, trust instrument, or other estate planning mechanism already in place to protect the individual. In the absence of an alternative, however, petitioning the court for a conservatorship or guardianship may be the only way to adequately protect your financially incapable or incapacitated elderly loved one.
Michelle maintains a broad practice serving clients in the areas of elder law, real estate and land use, litigation, and estate planning.