If you are an adult child with an aging parent, there may come a time when you begin to worry about your parent’s ability to make personal and/or financial decisions. If your parent is suffering from Alzheimer’s, or another age-related dementia condition, you have even more reason for concern. At the same time, you probably do not want to take away your parent’s freedom and autonomy. Failing to act, however, could lead to your parent being injured or victimized. How do you know when your parent needs a legal guardian (referred to as a “conservator” in California)? The Los Angeles elder law attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC help you decide when a parent needs a legal guardian (conservator).
What Is a Conservatorship?
In California, if a court determines that an adult is unable to manage his/her affairs and/or unable to safely care for himself/herself, the court will appoint a Conservator. California recognizes both a Conservatorship of the Person and a Conservatorship of the Estate. A Conservatorship of the Person is established when an adult is unable to care for his/her personal needs. For example, if an adult cannot maintain regular hygiene or remember to take medication. In that case, a Conservator of the Person will be appointed and have the authority to protect the ward (adult in need of a conservator) and make personal decisions for the ward. A Conservatorship of the Estate is established when an adult cannot safely handle financial matters. In that case, a Conservator of the Estate will be appointed and given the authority to manage the wards financial affairs, which may include things such as managing income, paying bills, and/or selling assets.
How Do I Know If My Parent Needs a Conservator?
As an adult child, it can be extremely difficult to acknowledge that a parent is no longer capable of making decisions and/or managing finances. The reality, however, is that despite advances in science, medicine, and technology that allow us to live longer, a way to stop the natural aging process remains beyond our capabilities. Consequently, the longer a parent lives, the more likely it is that your parent will experience the physical and/or mental deterioration that accompanies the natural aging process. At some point, you may need to step in to prevent injury or harm. Ultimately, only you can decide when it is time to petition to become your parent’s Conservator; however, some common signs that indicate it is time to consider conservatorship include:
- Injuries that cannot be explained
- Frequent physical injuries
- Unpaid bills when the funds are available to pay the bills
- Money missing from accounts without an explanation
- Property or assets missing without explanation
- Missed doctor appointments
- Prescription medication not being taken as prescribed
- Memory loss that appears to impact decision-making or daily functions
- Deteriorating hygiene
- Sudden or unexplained weight loss
- Mood swings or confusion
- Failing to keep up a home (things like basic cleaning, laundry, dishes not being handled)
- Money being spent frivolously and without accountability
How Do I Become My Parent’s Conservator?
If you believe your parent needs a conservator, consulting with an experienced elder law attorney should be your first step. If the attorney agrees that a Conservator is necessary, your attorney can help you initiate the required court process. Conservatorship is viewed as the most restrictive option, meaning a court must decide that a Conservator is necessary to protect your parent. If the court decides a conservator is necessary, the court will then consider your request to become the Conservator. If the court appoints you as conservator, the court will also decide which type of conservatorship is necessary (or if both are necessary) and decide what authority you will have as conservator.
Contact Los Angeles Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about conservatorship or other elder law issues, contact the experienced Los Angeles elder law attorneys at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.