In our third installment of Defining Elder Law, we discuss Conservatorships and Elder Abuse. While technically these are two separate legal matters, they often find themselves intertwined, as conservatorships often become necessary because financial elder abuse is occurring.
A Conservatorship is when the Court appoints a person (such as a friend, family member, or even professional) to act as an agent for another. A Conservatorship is the best way to assist an elderly person with severe mental capacity issues, while also providing complete and total protection. To obtain a Conservatorship, you must petition the Court requesting that they appoint you Conservator over the person with mental capacity issues (i.e. the Conservatee). A Conservator can make legal decisions on behalf of a Conservatee in several different situations. While a conservatorship can be obtained without an attorney, it is a complicated court proceeding with many nooks and crannies. One example is when one petitions the court for a conservatorship, they need significant proof that a conservatorship is indeed necessary. This includes thorough medical reviews, outside witness testimonies, and other supporting information. There are also a host of forms and documents that need to be filed with the court, and if not done in the correct manner they can delay the conservatorship proceeding and have you running back to court time and time again. Finding an attorney who specializes in Conservatorships in your county is often the best route to a successful legal proceeding. I specialize in Conservatorships in Contra Costa County and Alameda County, where I am familiar with the judges and know the way they need things done in order to approve a conservatorship. Read more about conservatorships.
As the elderly population in the U.S. has grown, unfortunately so have the number of Elder Abuse cases. Fortunately, however, the awareness about elder abuse has also grown. Elder Abuse normally takes one of two forms - Financial Elder Abuse, and Physical Elder Abuse.
Financial Elder Abuse can occur when an elder or vulnerable adult provides their assets to a caregiver of a family member. In my practice in Contra Costa County and Alameda County, I have witnessed Financial Elder Abuse cases involving daughters, siblings, caregivers, and even spouses. Examples of Financial Elder Abuse include caregivers exercising inappropriate influence or taking advantage of lack of mental capacity, making changes to a will inappropriately, misappropriating funds in a trust, theft of personal belongings, stealing or misusing funds, and making changes to bank account, real estate, or car titles.
Physical Elder Abuse is less commonly seen in court proceedings, however its prevalence can be staggering. Starvation, malnutrition,isolation, and gross negligence are all forms of physical elder abuse. In my own personal practice, I have most often witnessed caregivers/family members who are negligent, and I help those concerned to take legal action to change their situation.
Finding a highly experienced litigation attorney who specializes in Elder Abuse issues is essential when facing a potential legal action. If you’re unsure if you need an attorney, consult one anyway - it’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family. I offer a free consultation at my Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm in Walnut Creek, and many other attorneys do as well.