You’ve got some real concerns about the way that a loved one is spending their money or handling their finances. Maybe your mother has started gambling on Keno machines or you’re worried that your father will get talked into another shaky “investment opportunity” by your brother.
Does that give you the right to ask a judge for conservatorship over their financial affairs?
Maybe. Conservatorships, whether they are broad in scope or limited, temporary or permanent, are only granted when the court has sufficient evidence to believe that someone is truly incapable of managing their own affairs — not just when they’re spending money in a way that may seem foolish or dangerous to their loved ones.
What does the court consider a sufficient reason for a conservatorship?
Generally, a judge will want to know if your mother or father is able to provide for their own basic needs. Are they still opening their bills and paying the utilities? Do they buy food when they need it? Are they getting their taxes filed and keeping up with the mortgage?
If so, you may not have much of a case for conservatorship. Most of the time, the court wants evidence that the person in question genuinely lacks the mental capacity to make their own (good or bad) decisions. There are basically three ways that happens:
- They have a permanent intellectual disability: Some people are born with intellectual disabilities, while others acquire them through injuries. If you have a sibling with an intellectual disorder or a parent with a traumatic brain injury, that might qualify.
- They are in a coma or uncommunicative: If your loved one was in a serious accident that’s left them incapable of communicating their wishes, they will most surely need someone to step in and take control of their finances — at least for a while.
- They have a serious, ongoing illness that affects their mental functioning: Typically, this means an age-related illness like dementia, but it could also be a mental illness like schizophrenia that affects their ability to understand the world around them and process the information needed to make well-considered financial decisions.
It’s always difficult to watch a loved one’s mental functioning deteriorate. If you genuinely believe that it’s time for someone to step in and take control of their finances, find out more about how conservatorships work and what it takes to get started.