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Seeking conservatorship of your loved one

One of the most difficult things for an adult to do is to watch a parent decline in health and mental awareness. The once vibrant loved one who may have been the heart and soul of family gatherings is now struggling to manage the most basic tasks of the day.

If you are noticing your parent making critical mistakes that jeopardize his or her financial security or safety, you may be considering the options for overseeing your parent's wellbeing. This may include protecting your loved one from financial or physical abuse by those who prey on the vulnerable elderly.

What does a conservator do?

One option for providing protection for your loved one is to petition the California courts for the role of conservator. This is most appropriate if your parent has not signed a power of attorney and no longer has the capacity to do so. The duties of a conservator may include caring for your loved one's personal well-being or overseeing your loved one's finances. Some specific tasks you may perform for your parent include the following:

  • Preparing meals
  • Assisting with personal hygiene and dressing
  • Cleaning house
  • Ensuring your loved one receives medical care
  • Transporting your loved one to appointments
  • Deciding where your loved one will live
  • Providing your parent with appropriate recreational activities
  • Paying bills and managing or investing your loved one's money
  • Gathering and securing all assets

Some of these tasks may require the authorization of the court. For example, if it is in your parent's best interests to reside in a nursing facility, you may decide to sell his or her house. To do so, you may need to seek permission from a judge.

Obtaining conservatorship

The court wants to ensure that no one gains control of a vulnerable elder for nefarious reasons. Because of this, the process to acquire conservatorship, even of your own parent, is complicated and protracted. The following is an overview of the process:

  • Completing the appropriate paperwork
  • Filing a petition with the court
  • Appointing another party to inform your parent of your intentions
  • Appointing another party to notify by mail other close relatives of the date of the hearing
  • Submitting to a court investigation and assessment of your fitness for the duties of conservatorship
  • Attending the hearing for the judge's decision

If the court approves your role as conservator, you will have to attend a court-ordered training program and make regular reports to the court concerning the progress and well-being of your conservatee.

Becoming a conservator will not be easy, but your loved one depends on you to step in make the best decisions for his or her safety and welfare. You may find that an attorney with experience in guardianships and conservatorships can be of tremendous benefit to your cause.

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