A question from a friend led me to remember the uncertainty and hesitation that people have in seeking a guardianship or conservatorship for someone that needs help. Their hesitation usually is, “He hasn’t lost his mind,” “She can still live on her own.” In other words, the concerned family member or friend believes that before the court would consider appointing a guardian or conservator, the person must be in really bad shape. However, this is not true.
A perfect example is a case filed by a nephew and his wife regarding their aunt. The Court appointed me the guardian ad litem. For a year and a half prior to filing the petition, family members had attempted to dissuade their aunt from giving money to, or even associating with, a con-man. The aunt’s husband had suffered a stroke (along with having other ailments), and now lived in a nursing home. The con-man had befriended the woman.
Now, the family did contact Adult Protective Services in their city, but it could not move quickly enough, nor did it have the resources, to provide immediate help. You see, over a nine-month period of time, the con-man had convinced the aunt to sell three different parcels of property, as the aunt had a general power of attorney over her husband’s interests. Now, if you would speak with the aunt, she did not give the appearance of someone who had not loss her faculties. She told her relatives that it was her property, that the con-man was her friend, and that she would do what she pleased. However, the court agreed with my assessment that she had lost her ability to make the necessary judgments to oversee her, and her husband’s, property, and her own personal welfare, and that a guardianship/conservatorship was necessary.
It is possible that most of the property could have been saved if a petition was filed sooner. Judges are often frustrated when family members do nothing, and then file proceedings several months too late. These same family members then expect the Court and the conservator to recover the lost funds or other property.
When families wait too long, other bad things, besides the loss of money and property, can happen including serious injury and/or death to a parent or family member. Therefore, while it may seem hasty and unnecessary, you should talk to an attorney before the problem gets out of hand. Remember, also, that a temporary conservator and/or guardian can be appointed quickly, on a temporary basis, if good cause for the appointment exists.