Monday, December 26, 2016

Conservatorship for Mother with Advanced Alzheimer’s

Brook Thurston, in our Walnut Creek office, has been helping a client obtain a Conservatorship for her mother. When the mother had begun showing signs of dementia five years before, she had moved in with our client. In the early stages, the disease had been manageable. While our client had a demanding job, she was able to adjust her schedule, working more frequently from her home office, which allowed her to keep an eye on her mother.

The disease progressed from dementia to advanced Alzheimer’s

But the dementia became Alzheimer’s, and it’s a heartbreakingly progressive disease. The mother had reached the point where she could no longer engage in conversation and had to be constantly watched. Our client would find her mother eating banana peels, drinking detergent, trying to dress herself, but getting confused and wearing a sweater as pants. To complicate things, the mother had recently fallen, broken her hip and was now in the hospital. Her mother’s condition had reached the point where she required 24/7 care, and our client could no longer care for her mother alone.

No Power of Attorney to access assets

Her mother had never created a Living Trust with a Power of Attorney or Advanced Healthcare Directive. When our client finally intervened to take charge of her mother’s care, it was too late to get the Power of Attorney that would provide access to her mother’s assets to pay for the costs of the more comprehensive care she now required.
A Conservatorship would allow our client to make decisions about her mother’s care
Our client was applying for a Conservatorship for her mother. This legal status would allow her to make decisions about her mother’s care. As Conservator, she would also have access to her mother’s assets that would help pay for her care.
Brook filed the necessary papers with the court, petitioning for the Conservatorship. The court assigned an investigator to the case to confirm that there weren’t any signs of elder abuse or other illegal schemes to gain access to an aging woman’s finances. The court also scheduled a Conservator hearing to review the case.
Access to her mother’s assets, allowing her to pay for more comprehensive care
As her mother’s Conservator, our client now has access to her mother’s assets, which will help pay for her care. She is now legally responsible for making decisions about where her mother will live and the kind of care she will receive. She must keep financial records and submit regular reports to the court.

Responsibilities of a Conservator: 

  • Making decisions about meals, living arrangements and housekeeping
  • Providing for health and personal care
  • Providing transportation, including taking the Conservatee to doctor’s appointments
  • Making sure the Conservatee’s bills are paid
  • Investing the Conservatee’s money
  • Making sure the Conservatee gets all the benefits for which he or she is eligible
  • Making sure the Conservatee’s taxes are filed and paid on time
  • Keeping exact financial records
  • Making regular reports of the financial accounts to the court and other interested persons.
In this situation, much of the anxiety and a lot of trouble could have been avoided if our client’s mother had created a Living Trust when she was still mentally alert, giving her daughter Power of Attorney and naming her the agent for her Advance Healthcare Directive. Instead, her daughter struggled with the economics of her mother’s care until the court eventually appointed her as her mother’s Conservator.

Still putting off your Living Trust

Our Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Directive. Most of our clients tell us they’re surprised at just how easy it was. Make an appointment today to get started on your Trust. Helpful. Compassionate. Affordable

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Probate Case Study: The Story of Sally and the Sharks

About a year and half ago, a well-dressed woman came into the Oakland office and asked Ian, one of the owners, if he did Probate. “Yes, of course we do!” Ian loves doing Probates.
This woman was very professional and pleasant. She was accompanied by a past client, and apparently the two of them worked together. Ian had enjoyed working with this client, so he was delighted with the referral and was looking forward to working on a new Probate case.

Mrs. Cruikshank became a client. Her business? Buy low, sell high

Mrs. Cruikshank asked Ian if she could be a client: Ian would prepare Probate matters for her for the true Entitlees to the properties, as a vendor. Her business was buying and selling houses that were in Probate; she intended to clean up by buying low and selling high. Well, that’s how people like JP Getty and the Rockefellers made their fortunes—it’s the American way, right?

Meet Sally, the Estate’s Administrator

One could not have imagined a nicer, more caring person than Sally, who out of the goodness of her heart stepped up to administer the Estate after those named in the decedent’s Will refused to do so, even though they were going to inherit assets from the Estate. Sally had nothing to gain; she was the decedent’s longtime friend, and felt compelled to help.
The Shark Crew was trying to buy the Estate’s real estate for a price that was far below market value—a total violation of the probate code. They should have gotten a professional appraisal to determine current market value in the Bay Area’s red-hot real estate market. Instead, they circumvented this step and tried to practically steal the Estate’s property.

In Probate Court, the Court’s in charge

Thank goodness for the Probate Court. At a hearing for court confirmation of the sale, the court essentially forced the Shark Crew to pay a reasonable price for the property. Once the house was sold, Ian mistakenly figured that the Shark Crew was gone. Wrong.
One of the Estate’s less-functional beneficiaries was still living in the house. The home was no longer part of the Estate, so it was no longer CDP’s matter. But the Shark Crew convinced Sally to pay a distribution to all of the Estate’s beneficiaries before obtaining a court order to generate money to help this beneficiary move. This also cleverly saved Mrs. Cruikshank and the Shark Crew the time and expense of evicting this squatter.

Ian, a law and order guy, becomes her worst nightmare

Meanwhile, Mrs. Cruikshank was really sick of hearing from Ian—his constant hand-waving about pesky things like rules, procedure and the probate code. Ian’s a law and order guy, after all. She’s religious and figured God would either absolve her, take care of her—or at the very least, forgive her for her sins.
Now, as they wearily approach the end of this long, strange journey to close the Estate, Ian’s trying to keep his client from being sanctioned by the court for her extremely poor judgment.

The moral of this story: Avoid Probate by getting a Living Trust!

Stay out of probate! Do a Living Trust, for crying out loud, and avoid the sharks who want to “help” you sell your real estate.
If you do find yourself needing to go through Probate, find a good provider, such as a lawyer or Legal Document Assistant with a good reputation. There are no shortcuts. Real estate scams abound, and Probate creates low-hanging fruit. People are grieving, in a state of shock and loss, mourning their loved ones. They’re vulnerable and facing the long, confusing Probate process. When some nice person offers to “help” them, they’re delighted. Don’t get eaten by sharks–stay out of the water in the first place.
Of course we do Probate! Contact us one of our three Bay Area offices. Better yet, avoid Probate altogether and make an appointment to get started on your Living Trust. We help you through every step of the process. Helpful. Compassionate. Affordable