When your parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and begins to show significant symptoms, his or her condition can deteriorate rapidly.  Someone in this state often experiences difficulty caring for their basic safety and living needs and managing financial matters.  It can be hard to convince your parent that it’s time to let you or someone else take over making decisions for them.

You may think it’s best to give your mother or father time and continue trying to reason with them.  However, waiting to take action in this situation can have serious consequences.  Under these circumstances, protecting aging parents who have Alzheimer’s and dementia with conservatorship may be the best option to protect their well-being and interests. Fortunately, in California, you can turn to the court for assistance through a conservatorship.

What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship describes a type of legal case where a probate court judge appoints a person or organization to be responsible for the care of an adult who cannot take care of his or her needs or attend to their finances.  In most cases, someone seeking a conservatorship for an older adult parent is going to request a general conservatorship.

Conservators

There are two types of conservators, conservator of the person and conservator of the estate.  Depending on your parent’s condition, he or she may need one or both types.

  • Conservator of the person is the individual who is named by the court to make decisions concerning the person’s medical care and living situation and ensure that his or her physical needs are met.
  • A conservator of the estate is a person designated to manage all financial matters for the impaired individual.  The conservator will have access to the person’s funds and will handle things such as receiving money and paying bills as well as making any other necessary fiscal decisions.

Petitioning for Conservatorship

Almost any concerned person can file for a conservatorship.  In the case of a person with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, the filing party is usually his or her spouse, their adult child, another concerned relative or a state entity. However, any other interested person or the impaired individual may also file.  It is important to note that filing for a general conservatorship does not automatically result in a conservatorship of the person and the estate.  If your parent needs both kinds of conservatorship, the petition will need to request each.

Who will be Appointed Conservator?

The probate court begins with considering someone named by the individual.  If he or she does not name anyone or if the nominated person is someone the court finds objectionable, the law provides the following order for potential conservators: 1) Spouse or domestic partner; 2) Adult child; 3) Parent; 4) Sibling; 5) Any other person who is acceptable under the law; or 6) A public guardian.  If the person named does not want to take on this responsibility, he or she can nominate another person.  Being nominated as a conservator does not guarantee an appointment.  It is ultimately up to the California probate court to determine if the nominee’s selection is in the best interest of the individual.

Determining whether it is the right time to pursue a conservatorship can be difficult.  This decision will involve thinking about your parent’s best interest while also preserving their autonomy and dignity.  Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney is a vital and necessary part of evaluating your options.  At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we have elder law attorneys with the experience you need to plan for your parent’s well-being and care today and in the future.  Contact us today to schedule your consultation. /