Individuals who are experiencing cognitive decline are often placed in a conservatorship. For example, a Virginia judge might appoint you as the conservator for an elderly parent who has symptoms of dementia. It’s also possible that an elderly parent or spouse would voluntarily give you power of attorney to make decisions on that loved one’s behalf.
Defining your duties
A conservatorship is often defined in scope by the family law judge who appoints you or by a power of attorney document. For instance, you may only have the power to pay bills on your parent’s behalf but lack power to raise funds to do so. However, you’ll likely have the ability to make a host of decisions such as withdrawing money from a bank account, selling property or taking other steps to manage a loved one’s affairs. If you have control over the person and the estate, you can make these decisions with little or no input from the conservatee.
As a conservator, you have a fiduciary responsibility to the person who is under your supervision. This means that any decision that you make must be in that person’s best interest. In other words, you can’t sell your elderly parent’s home just because you want to pocket the equity it has accrued over the past several years or decades. Signs of abuse include unpaid bills, changes to an estate plan and other changes in behavior that seem out of character for the conservatee.
If you feel that a loved one is being taken advantage of, you’re encouraged to take legal action right away. This may result in the termination of an existing conservatorship or removing an abusive conservator in favor of someone who will serve your loved one’s needs.