Conservatorship is a legal binding arrangement in which someone that is assigned by the court acts as another person’s financial overseer. This usually takes place when a person is elderly, nearing the end of their life, or has become unable to make financial decisions on their own.
Conservators are given the power to make financial decisions on behalf of a person that is unable to make decisions for themselves and are expected to always act in the best interest of the person they’re assigned to represent. The conservator will manage that person’s finances until they recover or until they pass away.
Sometimes, a person may abuse this power and steal from the person, or act unethically in some other way. If you believe that you or a loved one is the victim of conservatorship abuse, here the signs to be aware of and what you can do.
What are the Signs of Conservatorship Abuse?
The signs or red flags to be aware of come in a variety of forms. While each sign may not prove abuse, it’s in your best interest to get to the bottom of what’s happening. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Unpaid bills
- Sudden changes in banking, like irregular or unexpected withdrawals
- Forgery of financial documents
- Sudden changes in the person’s will or estate plans
- Unexplained loss of funds, property, or possessions
- Additional individuals taking gifts from the person in question
- New attorneys, accountants, and caregivers
- Setting up a new charity that was not discussed prior
You should also watch out for any new limitations on personal access or contact with your loved one, since the person that is doing the abusing would likely not want anyone to know what they’re up to. If the conservator is up to no good, they will likely isolate the victim so that no one knows what’s going on.
If you notice any signs of abuse or any unusual activity or behavior, it’s best to act quickly before it’s too late. Since the conservator legally has complete control over a person’s financial assets, you must also act decisively before too much damage is done. Speak with an attorney to help you understand the probate process if you’re unsure.
How to Stop Conservatorship Abuse
If your loved one has a legal binding conservatorship in place, then the conservator has signed a Conservator Bond. This is a built-in protection that acts as a promise by the conservator to not abuse their power or the person’s finances. If you suspect wrong doing, you can make a claim against this bond for any reason that is financial in nature. Hiring legal representation, like this Orange County probate attorney, is highly advised.
Reasons to file a claim include misuse of money, fraud, theft, misrepresentation, or going against the wishes of the person in question. However, it’s important to remember that even a successful claim against the bond doesn’t mean the court will replace or stop the conservatorship. You will need to ask the court to assign a different person.
What to Expect
You can ask to change a conservator at any time. After you file a claim, the court will hold a hearing to determine if the conservatorship has been abused. Your attorney and the court will look at records and bank statements to make this decision. If abuse is found, the previous conservator may have to pay back any assets that have been stolen, as well as any other penalties.