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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Sunday, October 1, 2017

What To Do When You Suspect A Conservator is Engaging in Foul Play

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to multiple types of abuse, including financial abuse. Many aging Americans are socially isolated, which makes them prime targets for con artists. As despicable as it sounds, sometimes the very people the courts appoint to protect seniors are the ones who exploit them. If your loved one has a court-appointed fiduciary to handle her financial matters, you need to know what to do when you suspect a conservator is engaging in foul play.

While most people seek to avoid conservatorships, they are not always avoidable. In these cases, the courts can appoint a conservator to handle the finances of someone who has lost the ability to manage his money for himself. The conservator has access to the senior’s bank accounts, assets, and income. The conservator is usually an alternative payee for Social Security benefits. When all goes well, the conservator sets a budget for the aging adult, pays his bills, and safeguards his assets. Unfortunately, some people in positions of trust abuse their power.

Signs That Your Elderly Loved One Might Be the Victim of Financial Abuse

If you notice that the conservator appears to have more income or means than before, evidenced by sudden lifestyle changes or extravagant purchases, the conservator might be ripping off the senior. There are also indications about your loved one that should raise a red flag to you concerning her financial well-being. Some of these are:

  • Even though there is adequate room in her budget, she does not have sufficient clothing or personal care items.
  • She is missing cash, jewelry, personal items, or other valuables.
  • Her personal hygiene is deteriorating, which may indicate that the conservator is withholding personal care items.
  • Her house is falling into disrepair.

What You Can Do When You Suspect a Conservator of Foul Play

Although as a society we became aware of the serious issues of child abuse several decades ago, it has taken a long time for our social awareness of elder abuse to develop. On a positive note, the issue is now beginning to get the attention it deserves, and there are multiple resources available to protect seniors from abuse and neglect. Here are steps you can take if you suspect financial exploitation of an elder by a conservator:

  • Every county in California has an Adult Protective Services (APS) agency to help seniors who are victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Your APS office is your first stop for reporting suspected abuse. The APS office will coordinate with law enforcement agencies, the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (OSLTCO), the California Department of Health Services, the California Department of State Hospitals, and the California Department of Developmental Services.
  • If the senior lives in a nursing home or other assisted living center, report your suspicions in writing to the nursing home. Federal law requires nursing homes to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect within a limited number of days of receiving a complaint. Financial abuse is one of the categories for mandated reporting. The nursing home is required to report its findings to the proper authorities.
  • Many District Attorneys have special units for elder abuse or fraud. Check with your local county court for information.
  • Of course, if a senior is in danger, call 911 or contact local law enforcement. Then follow up by contacting your APS office.

You may wish to take legal actions against the conservator to recover the stolen assets. Request a consult with the professional elder law attorneys at Horizonlaw today to talk about your legal options.

 


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