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Does My Elderly Mother Need a Conservatorship?

12/13/2022 | Conservatorship
Does My Elderly Mother Need A Conservatorship

As your parent ages, you are likely to see differences in how they function both physically and mentally. In some cases, the changes may be so significant that you become concerned for their well-being or safety. For instance, if you notice that your mother has stopped attending to her physical needs or finances, it may be time to intervene. In California, when an adult can’t take care of themselves, it may be necessary to ask a court to appoint a conservator to make certain decisions on their behalf. If you have these concerns, you will want to know: Does my elderly mother need a conservatorship?

Signs That Your Elderly Mother May Need a Conservatorship

It can be challenging to identify the exact moment when it is time to assist your aging parent. Some cognitively impaired individuals show noticeable signs of distress, such as getting lost and confused in once-familiar areas. They may also neglect to bathe, eat, take essential medications, or pay household bills. Other indications may be less pronounced, like when they become more forgetful about the date or begin missing important appointments.

Every situation is unique, and what may be alarming for one person may not catch another’s attention. However, generally speaking, if your elderly mother is increasingly forgetful and not taking care of her health, safety, or finances, it’s crucial that you act as soon as possible. These types of symptoms tend to worsen over time, and waiting to act could place your mother’s physical or financial health at risk.

What is a California Conservatorship?

In California, when an adult can no longer attend to their physical or financial needs, another adult can request that the probate court appoint a conservator to make certain decisions on their behalf. The person under the conservatorship is called a conservatee.

There are two types of conservators: 1) a conservator of the person, and 2) a conservator of the estate. Depending on the circumstances, a person may require one or both types of conservatorships.

Conservator of the Person

  • A conservator of the person is appointed to make decisions regarding the conservatee’s physical needs. Their duties include being responsible for ensuring that the conservatee has adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. Your elderly mother’s conservator would have the authority to decide where she lives and whom she sees for medical treatment. They would also be responsible for making sure that her recreational needs are met.

Conservator of the Estate

  • A conservator of the estate is appointed to oversee the conservatee’s financial decisions. The conservator’s tasks often include paying the conservatee’s bills, accepting income on their behalf, and making investments for their benefit. This type of conservator has a fiduciary duty and is required to safeguard the conservatee’s assets and make prudent financial decisions on their behalf.

Who Can be a Conservator?

The proposed conservatee can nominate the conservator, or they may be appointed by the probate court. California law recognizes an order of preferred conservators beginning with the conservatee’s spouse. After their husband or wife, the order goes to their adult child, parent, sibling, and then to “any person or entity eligible for appointment as a conservator” under California law. Often, the same person will serve as the conservator of the estate and the conservator of the person.

Are There Alternatives to Conservatorship?

Depending on your mother’s situation, she may or may not need a conservatorship immediately. If your elderly mother is functioning to the point that she can plan for her own future care and needs, she may be able to assist with putting protective measures in place. For instance, by preparing an Advance Healthcare Directive, your elderly mother can provide treatment instructions for her providers and designate a medical decision-maker to act on her behalf if she becomes incapacitated. Likewise, if she is unable to attend to her financial interests, her power of attorney can be used to make sure the right person will be there to assume responsibility for her finances.

Contact a California Conservatorship Attorney

If you have these or other concerns about your elderly mother’s functioning and future needs, the time to get information is now. By contacting a California conservatorship and estate planning attorney, you can learn more about the available options for your elderly mother’s support and care. At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced California conservatorship and estate planning attorneys who can help you evaluate your elderly mother’s situation and plan for the future. Please get in touch with us online or by phone to set up a free consultation today.