Conservatorships: Consequences and Options

When an adult is no longer able to care for their own health and financial needs, a court may be asked to appoint someone to act as a conservator (or guardian) for that incapacitated individual. Conservatorships (or adult guardianship as it may also be referred to) can become quite complex, time-consuming, and expensive.

Some family members or other loved ones are unable to care for a person of advanced age. If the individual is of retirement age, the courts may decide that he or she should have a guardian oversee either or both financial and medical matters. The judge may decide that the person requires two guardians in a conservatorship depending on the circumstances. When the elderly individual has a disability, he or she may not have the capacity to take care of certain issues. Many consequences are possible in these situations that could negatively impact the adult throughout the rest of his or her life.

Instances of Abuse

Even though the adult is not in a nursing home or other facility in many conservatorship situations, he or she may still face abuse at the hands of the guardian. Often the abuse happens through neglect. Some guardians enter into conservatorships with multiple adults and have little time to provide specific care to one person. Others are negligent in their duties. Some have others intentionally. This could occur with other consequences through fraud, theft or when the guardian wants to inflict pain on the adult. The abuse is normally undocumented unless loved ones are available occasionally to check up or a supervising agent arrives unannounced.

Neglect in a Conservatorship

If the guardian either has too many individuals under him or her or does not care about those he or she is to care for, this person may neglect the elderly or infirm. This could occur through simply ignoring the person for a time or targeting someone specifically with malicious intent. The instances of neglect generally are severely harmful to someone needing medication, visits to the doctor or when he or she cannot feed or care for his or her body through daily living. If the person suffered an injury that takes the capability of movement or living independently, he or she will require the help of another person constantly.

Fraud with the Guardian

The theft of assets from the adult in a conservatorship relationship generally affects the individual seriously. Some guardians will use any opportunity to take money and other property from the adult under his or her care through false claims for medication, stays at the hospital, trips to the doctor and many other items the person needs constantly. The amount taken may max out credit or clear out bank accounts and leave the adult in poverty after the guardian completes these actions. Some are free to continue fraudulent activity without supervision when the system has an overload of clients needing guardians.

Recovery and a Lack of Decision Making

Some adults find it difficult to get out of a conservatorship after they recover from the issue that placed them under the guardianship of another person. This is often the case when waking from a coma or becoming whole after injuries. When recovery period may take years, but once the adult is capable of taking care of his or her needs, he or she may need to contact a lawyer to end the conservatorship process when the guardian is unwilling to release control over the estate or medical matters.

Supervision through the courts usually catches these issues, but with overworked court systems, not all adults receive the care they need.

When the courts judge the adult unfit to make his or her own decisions in financial or medical matters, the guardian becomes the sole person responsible to keep these issues progressing. This removes the ability to make decisions about his or her own life. Then, hiring a lawyer, signing a contract or even engaging in marriage are not possible until the conservatorship ends. The consequences of the situation negatively affect the adult until he or she may have the courts declare the person competent. Consulting with a lawyer to overthrow the conservatorship is important and a step by step process.

Legal Support to Remove a Conservatorship

The adult may need to hire a lawyer after getting the courts to deem him or her competent to do so. This is difficult and may require a long period with a legal professional petitioning the court and submitting evidence of competence and awareness.

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

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