Conservatorship and Financial Abuse: Bobbi Kristina Brown Update

Last month a conservatorship was obtained over Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22 year old daughter of Whitney Houston. This month, on June 24th, a lawsuit was filed against Nick Gordon by the conservator, alleging serious abuse against Bobbi Kristina. A conservatorship over another person allows one full legal power to act on their behalf. In the lawsuit, Nick Gordon is accused of multiple counts of physical abuse - including punching Kristina, dragging her up stairs by her hair, and knocking out a tooth. He is also accused of serious financial abuse. Subsequent to Bobbi Kristina inheriting a large sum of money (likely from her mother Whitney Houston), Nick Gordon assumed the role of Bobbi Kristina's husband, whereby he took control of her life, reportedly limiting her social interactions, answering her cell phone,  and manipulating her bank accounts. Legally however, the two were never actually married. 

The lawsuit also details how in April 2014, a trustee of Ms. Brown's trust filed a restraining order against Gordon. He allegedly threatened the trustee with guns and violence over concerns regarding Kristina's access to trust funds. 

Early this year, Brown was reported to have told someone that Nick Gordon was not who she thought he was, and had set up a time to meet January 31st. That was the day that Kristina was found unconscious in here bathtub with a swollen mouth and missing tooth. Just prior to this, Gordon and Brown had gotten in an argument. 

Brown has been in a coma since that day, and her conservator, Bedelia Hargrove reported that after making no improvements in her condition, she has been moved to hospice care. 

In a statement to the press, Hargrove said:

"Today I filed a lawsuit on behalf of Bobbi Kristina Brown. I filed this lawsuit to pursue justice on behalf of Bobbi Kristina Brown. No human being, male or female, should endure what Bobbi Kristina endured.Pat Houston and Bobby Brown have done all they can to take care of Bobbi Kristina since this terrible tragedy occurred. I have worked closely with both of them and we all want the very best for Bobbi Kristina. This lawsuit represents our collective efforts to get justice for Bobbi Kristina.We pray that justice will be done for her and that it will be swift."

As a conservatorship and financial elder abuse attorney in Contra Costa County, I have personally never witnessed abuse at this level. Unfotunately, however, conservatorships are often sought because someone is being financially or physically abused. In most cases, the abused person has also lost mental capacity and therefore is not capable of managing their own affairs. Financial and physical abuse is reprehensible when it occurs to a person of any age, but the fact that Kristina Brown will likely lose her life at such a young age because of it is a true tragedy.

If you believe someone you know is suffering from financial elder abuse or is no longer capable of managing their affairs, a conservatorship may be necessary. Contact an attorney to find out what your options are. At my Elder Law firm in Walnut Creek, I specialize in Conservatorships and Financial Elder Abuse, and offer a free consultation to discuss your matter.

To read more about the lawsuit:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2015/06/24/bobbi-kristina-nick-gordon-lawsuit/29233597/

Elder Law Part 3: Conservatorships, Elder Abuse

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. 

CONSERVATORSHIPS

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.

ELDER ABUSE       

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.

 

 

How to Obtain a Conservatorship

In my last Conservatorship blog post, we discussed the role of a Conservatorship and the differences between a Conservatorship of the Person and the Conservatorship of the Estate.  Today, I want to generally discuss the question of “how.”  How does one go about obtaining a Conservatorship?

When it comes to the process of petition for Conservatorship, the decision comes down to urgency and emergency.  If there is urgency, because of elder abuse or even the less terrifying need to just pay bills and manage health care, you should petition for a Temporary Conservatorship.  A person can obtain a Temporary Conservatorship within 5 court days. After filling out all the necessary Temporary Conservatorship paperwork, the documents must be filed with the Court. When the petition for temporary conservatorship is filed, the court will set a hearing within 5 Court days. If there is easily verifiable elder abuse occurring, or another verifiable emergency, the Court might be willing to waive that 5 Court day period of time.  

At the hearing, the Court will be looking at whether it is in the best interest of the proposed conservatee to have somebody appointed to manage their medical and/or financial affairs.  The Court will be hoping to personally question the proposed Conservatee regarding their personal wishes.  However, the Court will understand that sometimes those in need of a Conservatorship cannot easily travel to Court or understand the proceedings.  There can also be a clear difference between the proposed Conservatee’s wishes and what is in their best interest.

If the Court believes that it is in the best interest to to appoint somebody to manage the Conservatee’s financial or medical affairs, the court will issue an Order appointing a Conservator for that purpose.  Then, the Conservator can show the Order to the Clerk’s Office to have Letters Of Temporary Conservatorship issued.  The “Letters” document is the document that officially proves the existence of a Conservatorship.  

Obtaining a regular Conservatorship is roughly similar to a Temporary Conservatorship.  There are a few differences. Instead of filing the Petition and setting a hearing 5 Court days later, the Court will set a hearing for about 6-8 weeks later.  The delay here is what requires people sometimes to file for a Temporary Conservatorship to provide protection for the Conservatee during this 6-8 week time period.  The Court considers the same question for the general Conservatorship that it does for the Temporary Conservatorship: Is it in the best interest of the Conservatee to appoint a Conservator to manage their financial or medical affairs?  The evidentiary bar is somewhat lower than at the Temporary Conservatorship hearing, because you won’t need to prove a present emergency.  

If the Court believes a Conservator is necessary on a permanent basis, they will issue a new Order appointing a general Conservator.  Then, the Conservator, or their attorney, can take that Order to the Clerk’s office for them to issue Letters Of Conservatorship.  This document officially proves the existence of the general Conservatorship.  

Conservatorship law can be complicated.

The Law Offices Of Matthew B. Talbot is here to help assist you during what can be a trying time. Matthew Talbot is an Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney in Walnut Creek, CA. Please call us at 925 322 1795 to set up a consultation.