Under California law, a court-appointed conservator is a person who makes decisions, including financial and healthcare decisions, for another person who has been incapacitated due to injury or age (called a “ward”). In most cases, a concerned relative or social worker petitions a court to appoint a conservator for a person who can no longer take care of themselves. If the court deems the person incompetent, it will appoint a conservator to look after the person’s physical and financial wellbeing.
Conservators are legally required to have their wards’ best interests in mind, but that is not always the case. Due to the extent of the control conservators can exercise over their wards, conservator abuse is a serious threat to seniors. Contact a San Francisco elder abuse lawyer right away if you suspect such abuse.
Types of Conservator Abuse
- Financial exploitation: Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of conservator abuse. Because professional conservators are allowed to charge a reasonable fee to the ward for their services, many conservators will go out of their way to collect as many fees as they can by fraudulent accounting of their time and expenses. In the most extreme cases, unscrupulous conservators can even leave their wards completely destitute.
- Physical and sexual abuse: Conservators often have access to their wards when no one else is present, presenting an opportunity to engage in physical or sexual abuse.
- Psychological abuse: Conservators exercise an extraordinary level of control over their wards, such as who they are allowed to see, where they can go, and even whether to put them in a nursing home. Some conservators take advantage of this power to control their wards through guilt, shame, and belittlement. Although California laws prohibit this type of abuse and isolation, it still goes on.
Warning Signs of Conservator Abuse
Because every p situation is different, it can be very difficult to determine when a conservator’s behavior crosses the line from “tough love” to abuse. If your loved one is under a conservatorship look for signs of abuse. Some of the most common warning signs include:
- The conservator treats you as an outsider instead of a relative, friend, or loved one and shares little or no information about the senior with you.
- The ward is not getting his or her mail or allowed to receive visitors.
- The conservator restricts the ward’s access to the phone or computer.
- The conservator “hovers” when you visit so that you are never alone with the ward.
- You discover taxes have not been filed or paid.
- You are denied input about the ward’s healthcare.
- The ward seems to be sluggish, dazed, or otherwise not their normal selves.
- Items are missing from the ward’s home.
- The conservator refuses to take your call or answer your questions.
A Problem Hiding in the Shadows
One of the most daunting tasks facing elder advocates is a lack of comprehensive data on the extent of the problem. Various high-profile exposés of conservatorship abuse have been published over the years—such as the Los Angeles Times’ 2005 report finding that judges often overlook incompetence, neglect, and outright theft among court-appointed conservators—but these reports are few and far between. In fact, the Government Accountability Office even reported that it couldn’t locate “a single website, federal agency, state or local entity, or any other organization that compiles comprehensive information on this issue.”
Contact a San Francisco Elder Abuse Lawyer Today For Assistance
If you suspect a senior loved one in the victim of conservator abuse, seek the advice of a lawyer. Contact a San Francisco elder abuse lawyer at Evans Law Firm, Inc. today by calling (415) 441-8669 or by email. We can help guide your case through a jury trial or toward an equitable settlement. We also handle cases involving physical and financial elder abuse, qui tam and whistleblower law, nursing home abuse, whole life insurance and universal life insurance fraud, and indexed, variable, and fixed annuities fraud.