Fighting conservatorship abuse is a complex and emotionally-charged topic. Seeing a loved one ignored or taken advantage of by the person or persons charged with caring for them is extremely disappointing and difficult. In the following, we’ll cover how to file a petition to suspend or remove an abusive conservator, and how a conservatorship attorney may use litigation to secure a new conservator or to terminate a conservatorship altogether.
How to Fight Conservatorship and Conservator Abuse
To fight conservatorship and conservator abuse, the first thing to do is consult a conservatorship attorney experienced in suspending, removing and appointing new conservators. In many cases, like at RMO, the initial consultation is free. In many cases, a majority of the conservatorship attorney fees and costs will be paid from the estate when your conservatorship dispute is won or settled. Of course, protecting your loved one remains the priority, but the reality is that costs must be considered.
The most popular reason to dispute a conservatorship is simple: The conservatee no longer needs a conservator to make financial or life decisions for them. Example: their previous medical or mental condition is gone. In this case, the conservatee may file a petition to stop or terminate the conservatorship, as detailed below.
Other common reasons to fight conservatorships are more complicated: The conservatee or their family feel that the conservator is not acting in the best interests of the conservatee. In this case, they may want financial assets returned to the conservatee, or other damages recouped.
And lastly, we often speak to conservatees, or their family members, hoping to change the conservator to somebody they prefer. In many cases, if it’s in the best interests of the conservatee, the current conservator often will agree to this change, with some simple discussions or negotiations. In other cases, it may require litigation, see below.
Quickly, what is the definition of conservatorship?
When an individual is no longer able to make financial or life (e.g. health or medical) decisions for themselves, a conservator may be appointed to help them. A conservator will be appointed by the court, at the request of a family member, friend or the county. A conservatorship refers to the legal relationship between the conservator, who make the decisions, and the conservatee, the person who is being conserved and is unable to make decisions for themselves, ex., an elderly individual or somebody incapacitated by stroke or mental illness.
What is conservatorship abuse?
Conservatorship abuse can take many forms, from physical abuse (e.g. beatings, bed sores, broken bones), emotional abuse (e.g. verbal abuse, undue influence), or financial abuse (e.g. financial affairs in disorder, unduly influenced gifts, theft of money, property or real property).
What are the signs of conservatorship abuse?
Because financial decisions are most typical responsibilities of a conservator, the signs of conservatorship abuse tend to be financial in nature, ex., the conservator stealing or embezzling money from the conservatee. The signs of abuse tend to be the result of stolen money or missing assets:
- Unpaid Bill Notices: For credit cars, loans, taxes, etc
- Changes in Family Gifting: Suddenly “forgetting” to buy birthday or holiday gifts, or the giving much smaller/less expensive gifts.
- Changes in Wills, Estate Plans, or Living Trusts: Is the conservatee suddenly “taking back” assets they’d promised to others in their will, because they suddenly need the money?
- Bounced Checks: Are the conservatees checks suddenly bouncing?
These are the basic signs of possible conservatorship abuse. If you suspect something, please call or email us for a free consultation. We’re happy to simply answer your questions. It’s free, call anytime: (424) 320-9444
Can a conservatorship be contested in California?
Yes, a conservatorship can be contested in any state. Sometimes, the simplest way to contest a conservatorship is to object to the petition for conservatorship to stop the conservatorship in the first place, or to file a competing petition for conservatorship. In either case, you will want to engage litigation counsel familiar with litigating conservatorships and the specific issues that arise in these cases.
How to Petition to Terminate or End a Conservatorship
If the conservatee is no longer incapacitated, and able to make their own financial and life decisions, it is a relatively straightforward process to terminate the conservatorship:
- Retain counsel who can help you prepare the Petition to Terminate Conservatorship;
- Submit the Petition form to the conservatee’s county probate court;
- Receive notification of hearing date at the conservatee’s county probate court
- Attend the hearing with counsel;
- If the Petition to Terminate the Conservatorship is not opposed or objected to, the court mostly likely will grant the Petition and end the conservatorship, as long as you have demonstrated that the conservatee can handle their own affairs. If someone objects, whether it’s the conservatee, conservator or a family member, you will have to litigate to convince the court that terminating the conservatorship is in the conservatee’s best interest.
How to Contest a Conservatorship or Dispute a Conservatorship
If you suspect your loved one is the victim of abuse by a conservatee, you will need to bring your concerns to the attention of the court. Typically, it is the children or family of the conservatee who contest or dispute the actions of the conservatee. Retaining counsel to help you investigate your concerns and present them to the court clearly will give you the best chance of convincing the court that the conservator needs to be suspended, removed and/or replaced.
Is conservatorship the same as power of attorney and guardianship?
Conservatorship is similar to a power of attorney or guardianship in that it appoints someone to make legal, financial, or life decisions for another individual. However, the scenarios in which one person is appointed are quite different.
Conservatorship is typically chosen when a mentally or physically incapacitated person is unable to make financial or life decisions for themselves. In such a case, a conservator is appointed by the court.
Power of attorney is a common legal agreement, in which a person of sound mind legally authorizes another individual to make financial decisions for them. A person may give a trusted family member power of attorney to make financial decisions for them, ex. buying and selling stocks.
Advanced Healthcare Directive is another common legal agreement, in which a person of sound mind legally authorizes another individual to make healthcare decisions for them.
Guardianship is typically chosen when an underaged person is legally unable to make financial or life decisions for themselves, including daily needs like grocery shopping or paying the rent. In such a case, a guardian is appointed to make decisions and provide care
How much does it cost to fight conservatorship?
The cost of petitioning to stop a conservatorship is relatively affordable if uncontested, consisting only of the petition preparation, filing and hearing attendance fees and costs.
The cost of contesting or disputing a conservatorship can be sizable, and should be discussed in detail before a fight is undertaken. For a free consultation, call (424) 320-9444 or email [email protected]
Do I need a conservatorship litigation attorney near me?
We recommend finding an experienced conservatorship litigation attorney familiar with the county probate court in the county where the conservatee lives. For example, if the conservatee lives in Los Angeles, we recommend working with a conservatorship lawyer in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles conservatorship lawyer will generally be more familiar with the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Division, versus an out of state attorney.
Have questions? Call or email for a free consultation.
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About RMO Lawyers, LLP
RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit https://rmolawyers.com/.