Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Could Heirs Use a Conservatorship to Take Away Parents' Property?
“Seniors need to be aware that their children, siblings, and other heirs can sometimes try to use such a health condition as a way to gain legal control over their property,” pennyborn.com cautions. “Seniors should be aware that they are vulnerable to involuntary conservatorships, guardianships, and related types of actions”. .
In “Guardianship in the U.S.: Protection or Exploitation?” author Emily Gurnon tells the sad-but-all-too-true story of Ginger Franklin, who, in 2008, had fallen down the stairs of her Nashville-area townhouse, had been taken to the hospital with a severe brain injury. Since Franklin had not designated anyone to make decisions for her if she became incapacitated, her nearest relative, an aunt, was advised to petition the court for a guardian. The county appointed a lawyer as the guardian, and that person placed Franklin in a group home for seriously mentally ill adults.
When Franklin recovered and returned home seven weeks after the accident, the guardian informed her that she no longer had a home. The court had granted permission for the guardian to sell her home and its contents. The owners of the group home forced her to work for no pay, while paying monthly rent and attorney fees to the guardian.
Finally, with the help of an advocate and media attention, Franklin fought the guardianship in court, winning her freedom in 2010 after two long years of having no legal rights. She now lives independently in the Nashville area and has sued the guardian.
In most circumstances, pennyborn continues, it is possible to avoid a conservatorship by granting a durable financial power of attorney to someone you trust while you still have capacity. You can also place assets into a living trust, appointing a successor trustee to manage the trust assets in the event of your incapacity.
At Geyer Law, the goal of each of our elder law attorneys is to accomplish your objectives and provide for your family in the best way possible, including keeping control of your assets in your own hands as long as you are able to make decisions.
Nobody wants to think that their heirs will not respect their wishes, but you need to take steps to protect your own interests and keep you in charge of your own finances. Proper estate planning is designed to do just that. At the same time, good planning is designed to spare your loved ones expense, delay, and frustration if you become disabled.
- by Rebecca W. Geyer