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Aug 26, 2021 by |

Santa Clara County Financial Elder Abuse Attorneys: Court-Appointed Conservator Accused Of Theft From Incapacitated Persons

ATTORNEY NEWSLETTER

Charges Of Theft Of Over $400,000

Victim’s Daughter Blew Whistle Leading To Audit

Holding Fiduciaries Accountable

Conservators and other Court-appointed protectors for elder and dependent adults are chosen and appointed to protect persons who are unable to provide for their own needs.  Court appointments supersede earlier Powers of Attorney, trustee nominations and the like, leaving the appointed fiduciary in complete control.  Inherent in this mix of control and money are risks of abuse, conflicts of interest, and – for an unscrupulous appointee – temptations of theft.  To make matters worse, lack of court supervision and cronyism may overlook mismanagement, dereliction of duty, and inappropriate delegation of responsibilities.  The court appointees may charge exorbitant fees, cause estate Wills or trusts to be drawn for a conservator’s own benefit, fail to accommodate a conservatee’s changing needs or just outright steal money. They may also falsify the accountings and reports they are required to file with the court under Probate Code §§ 2600 et seq.  Conservators can be removed for any dereliction of duty. Probate Code §§ 2650-2655. If an acting conservator needs to be removed or replaced, Evans Law Firm, Inc. can help.  We represent seniors and other dependent adults in San Francisco, Santa Clara County and throughout California who need a change in a conservatorship in order to better manage a conservatee’s personal or financial affairs.  If you or a loved one need that kind of legal assistance, call us today at (415)441-8669. Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

Recent Arrest

A recent arrest serves as an important example of the danger of a conservator’s complete control of the money and property of his or her wards.[1] In the reported case, police allege that over a five-year period, a court-appointed conservator took more than $400,000 from her wards, stashing that money in a series of accounts she owned. Moreover, police allege, the conservator’s action came under the Department of Veterans Affairs’ scrutiny because some of her clients received VA benefits. An alleged victim’s daughter first blew the whistle on the suspicious activity, which triggered audits by authorities. The daughter told officers she first learned something was amiss when her mom’s doctor contacted her saying Medicare had refused a claim. She soon learned her mother’s Medicare coverage had lapsed and that all her mother’s medical bills were being paid from her own funds, rather than Medicare.  The daughter allegedly reached out to the conservator but her calls were never returned.  She hired a lawyer who initiated a case against the conservator and subpoenaed bank records which allegedly showed the conservator had been writing checks to herself and falsifying payments to medical providers.  The case triggered a police probe.  The police probe of the conservator’s activities stretched back through five years’ worth of records and spanned 15 months before the detective sought an arrest warrant. In all, the conservator is accused of taking money from nine other wards, ranging in age from 31 to 97, under conservatorships in which she had a hand.  She allegedly wrote checks to herself but claimed in annual conservator reports filed with the court that the payments went to nursing homes, a community college, medical providers, an auto repair shop, other caregivers and gift cards. Police allege that her scheme generally was to write checks from accounts owned by those she oversaw as conservator and deposit them in her accounts. In one case, she used a woman’s account to pay her own $14,000 credit card bill, according to police. While most checks weren’t reported in conservator reports at all, others were reported as having been paid to others according to the audit results. For example, police say she stated in a conservator report that two checks totaling $9,150 went to a single healthcare provider, when in reality they went into her accounts.

Spotting Conservator Abuse

As the reported case illustrates, families of older persons in conservatorships should monitor their older loved one’s well-being and be mindful of some red flags of conservator abuse:

  • Health and long-term care insurance go unpaid.
  • Healthcare provider bills remain unpaid
  • Existing financial accounts are closed or changed and the statements have been diverted to the guardian/conservator.
  • You discover the taxes haven’t been paid — or even filed.
  • Changes have been made to estate planning documents.
  • New bank accounts have been opened.
  • The guardian/conservator sees to it that your loved one doesn’t have a phone.
  • When you visit, the guardian “hovers” so you’re not alone with your loved one.
  • The guardian/conservator refuses to take your call or answer your questions.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has a problem with a California conservatorship or has been a victim of a breach of fiduciary duty by a trustee or other fiduciary in San Francisco, Santa Clara County or elsewhere in California or, contact Ingrid M. Evans at (415) 441-8669, or by email at <a href=”mailto:info@evanslaw.com”>info@evanslaw.com</a>. Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

[1] Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the case in any way.

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