Truthdig.com recently reported on the story of one Guadalupe Olvera, a resident of Aptos who allegedly lost over $400,000 of his estate over the course of three and one-half years due in part to the actions of his Nevada guardian. Several years ago, Mr. Olvera and his wife were living in Nevada. Mr. Olvera’s wife had been his guardian (she would have been his conservator had the couple been living in California) prior to her death in 2009. After her death, the family hired a professional guardian who was supposed to look after Mr. Olvera’s well-being and his estate. Instead, according to the family, the guardian ended up billing Mr. Olvera’s estate significant amounts of money for frivolous or questionable purposes. After the questionable bills and the legal fees incurred by Mr. Olvera’s guardian and family in fighting over the matter, over $400,000 of Mr. Olvera’s estate had been expended. Mr. Olvera’s ordeal ended several years following the death of his wife when his children “kidnapped” him, returned him to California, and obtained an order from a California court dissolving the Nevada guardianship.
Duties of a California Conservator
When an elderly individual is unable to care for his or her own affairs due to age or a mental condition, a petition may be brought asking the court to appoint a conservator for the person. This conservator’s role is simple – he or she is to look after the care and wellbeing of the conservatee. To ensure this role is fulfilled, the California judicial system imposes the following duties on conservators:
- Living arrangements: Conservators are (in most cases) empowered to find appropriate living arrangements for their conservatees. This may be in the conservatee’s own home, the home of a family member, an assisted living facility, a nursing home facility, or other similar residential facility. The conservatee’s own desires may be considered by the conservator, but the conservator’s decision is often controlling.
- Care and protection: A conservator is also empowered by California law to make decisions concerning the health, care, protection, and overall wellbeing of the conservatee. This often includes finding and hiring individuals to provide necessary services to the conservatee (such as a housekeeper if the conservatee cannot keep his or her own house or transportation services if the conservatee is unable to drive).
In certain situations (especially where the conservatee’s family challenges the decisions of the conservator or where the decision of the conservator would constitute a significant disruption to the conservatee’s life), the conservator may need to obtain court permission and approval before acting.
Protecting California Conservatees
Even with these duties enshrined in law, those in need of a California conservator are at risk of elder abuse if the conservator abuses his or her powers. Oftentimes the attention and involvement of family members in the life of the conservatee can deter physical or (more commonly) financial elder abuse and/or prevent such abuse from continuing.
Case Barnett Law and its team of experienced Southern California elder abuse legal professionals is available to assist families who believe their loved ones are suffering harm because a conservator is failing to carry out his or her duties toward the family member. The sooner you take action against a negligent or unscrupulous conservator, the better the outcome can be for your loved one. Call Case Barnett Law right away at (949) 861-2990, or contact our Costa Mesa personal injury attorney team to discuss your case.