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Conservatorship is tough love for your parent

It is understandable that you have put off the decision to seek conservatorship of your aging parent. Perhaps you hoped the symptoms were temporary and not signs of dementia or Alzheimer's. Maybe your siblings have balked at the idea, refusing to admit your parent is changing and needs someone to protect his or her interests.

Despite the hesitation and contradiction, you feel this is right for your parent. With conservatorship, you will be able to manage your parent's finances and other essential affairs. However, without the consent of your siblings, you may have a battle on your hands.

The duties of a conservator

If your parent is becoming forgetful, has difficulty making decisions or is allowing others to use his or her money to make questionable financial choices, you certainly want to step in and manage things for your loved one. Your parent may insist on continuing the self-management he or she has enjoyed to this point, and this stubbornness may reinforce any resistance you get from your siblings. However, if you can prove that conservatorship is in the best interests of your parent, the court is likely to see your side.

In the California court's eyes, when you take the role of conservator, your parent becomes your ward. As conservator, you can act only in the capacities assigned by the court, for example:

  • Deciding living arrangements for your loved one
  • Managing property and investments
  • Approving the release of confidential information
  • Representing your loved one as payee for bills and debts
  • Making end-of-life decisions

The court will expect you to keep a log of the spending of any of your ward's money and to report yearly on your loved one's status. You may have to seek the court's approval for certain financial decisions.

Help with your painful decision

Additionally, the court will expect you to allow your parent all the independence and autonomy that he or she can safely manage, and to include your loved one in decision making whenever possible. The court may permit you to make medical decisions as well, or it may appoint someone else to handle those responsibilities.

Of course, the struggle and frustration of seeking conservatorship from the court will be unnecessary if your parent has planned ahead with a durable power of attorney or health care directive. In the event that no such document exists, you may find it helpful to seek advice and guidance from a legal professional who will understand your concerns for your loved one and your desire to do the right thing.

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