Thursday, January 24, 2008

How do I remove my father's conservator?

The answer is pretty simple, you can't. A conservatee's child cannot remove a conservator regardless of how egregious he or she may act. But don't worry, I am not finished with my answer.

Judges have the power and authority to remove conservators. So while a conservatee's child can't remove a conservator, he or she can ask a judge to do it by filing a petition. In California, the conservatee's spouse, domestic partner, relative, friend or any other interested person has the right to petition the court to remove a conservator. A conservator of a person or an estate may be removed for any number of causes listed in California Probate Code Section 2650. To keep this post manageable, I am only addressing the catchall cause. It states that a court has the broad authority to remove a conservator if it is in the conservatee's best interest. In summary, just about anyone has the right to ask a judge to remove a conservator and a judge can do so if he or she determines that removal is in the conservatee's best interest. Sounds simple right? Read on.

What does "best interest" mean? What kind of evidence is required? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself before going forward. The answers will differ depending on the type of conservatorship. If a person is being conserved, you might want to gather evidence showing that the conservator committed acts or omissions that put the conservatee's health, safety and/or welfare at risk. This can be difficult if the conservatee lives in a professional board and care facility. The key is to collect and present relevant and creditable evidence. The most emotionally charged persuasive "sounding" argument will fall on deft ears unless it is supported by relevant and creditable evidence.

So how do you remove a conservator? You can do it by filing a petition that is so well drafted it persuades a judge to determine that removing a conservator is in the conservatee's best interest. If the judge is moved, but wants more information, he or she may order an investigation or appoint an attorney for the conservatee. In any event, your initial petition will set the tone. Oh yea, one more thing. Don't forget to nominate a replacement conservator.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My brother stole my inheritance--Can you believe it?

Loni contacted me at the office yesterday. She said, my brother stole my inheritance. He stole my inheritance! Can you believe it? I remained silent allowing her to go on. I love my brother, he's everything to me. I love his wife and kids. We just celebrated Christmas at his house. Our kids play together. I can't believe he did that to me, to my family. What's your brother's name? It's Michael. He's my oldest brother. He's suppose to protect me. I trusted him with everything. How could I be so stupid. How could he take advantage of me like that. My mother would turn over in her grave if she knew this was happening. Then came the tears. My mother was struck by....

(Needless to say, it was a long telephone call. Loni was suffering from the classic symptoms associated with grief. She verbalized shock, denial and disbelief. After suddenly losing her mother to a freak accident, she was about to lose her brother and inheritance to greed. Her family dynamics would never be the same. She was trying to come to terms with those unfortunate events in one telephone call.)

To help, we needed to switch roles. I needed to take charge. It was time to provide clear and specific instructions. I had to act fast. I needed estate plans, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, all financial related documents, such as, bank and brokerage statements, asset records, titles, deeds, business agreements, life insurance policies, tax returns and witness statements. It would be helpful to also have Michael's personal and financial information. I needed those things to start my investigation. We had to act fast because stolen assets have a tendency to gradually disappear over time.

After hanging up the telephone, I remember being impressed with Loni. Most people in her situation would have been paralyzed by denial. They would have waited, hoping to wake from the nightmare and resume their normal lives. Not Loni. She didn't sweep anything under the carpet. She was dealing with this matter head on. I have a good feeling about this case.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Con Next Door

The easy going helping hand that lives next to your aging mother is after your inheritance. Yes, I know that's a bold, unfounded and a bit presumptuous. But it's a warning you might want to heed. No, I am not suggesting that you file a police report or call an attorney, not yet at least. I am simply pointing out that friendly neighbors often have frequent and continuing access to your mother. With that type of access comes substantial opportunity to influence, manipulate or otherwise persuade--which should be especially concerning if your mother is infirm or susceptible to outside influences. This not a call for panic, as most helpful neighbors don't have ulterior motives. Instead remember this post like a seed planted in your mind. A yellow warning light of sorts waiting to go off if the helping hand starts reaching into the wrong pocket.