Guardianship and Conservatorship

“Guardianship” and “Conservatorship” …. We’ve all heard these terms but what do they really mean? What is the difference between these words? How, and why would you seek them for a loved one? Are they court proceedings; or can an attorney draw up the legal documents? Unfortunately, many people don’t learn the answers to these questions until they are embroiled in a situation requiring a guardianship and/or a conservatorship.

Over the next few weeks, we will explore these terms in our blog, so you can get a better understanding. We will follow the Jones family through the steps of a real-life case. Let us introduce you to their situation.

The Jones Family

“Alan Jones is an 87-year-old man with moderate dementia and several health issues. He was married for 50 years and has 3 children. His wife died and shortly thereafter he met Sandy, a woman at church.  In 2013 they married. Alan and Sandy maintained separate households and separate finances. Sandy would stay with Alan for part of the week. In 2019 Sandy began staying at Alan’s house more often and she gradually brought all her stuff with her. Sandy was cordial to Alan’s children but would not invite them to the house and would monitor their phone calls to their dad.

Sandy planned all meetings with the family in public places. When Covid hit, she had a perfect excuse to not allow anyone to the home.  Alan’s children were becoming concerned by the lack of communication with their father. In Jan. 2021 Alan’s daughter, Mary, made a surprise visit to the home. Mary was appalled by what she discovered. The beautiful lawn was a wreck, the house was full of stinky, moldy “stuff” and the kitchen had mounds of dirty dishes. Alarmed, Mary called her siblings and asked them to help her clean the home. Sandy stated that everything was fine, and she didn’t see a problem with the house. When the siblings began cleaning, they discovered infestations of fleas, roaches and black mold making the house uninhabitable. Alan and Sandy didn’t want to leave but they agreed to move into Sandy’s house which was not much safer.  Alan’s children were very concerned for their father’s living environment and Sandy’s control over him. Soon after, Alan had a heart attack and was in the hospital for two weeks.  When he got out, Sandy did not follow the medical advice by arranging care and giving Alan his medication. During this time, Mary also discovered that bills were not being paid and Sandy was using Alan’s money to pay her own bills.”

What can the family do to help?

As you can see, this is a really concerning situation. What can the family do? We will give you a few hints to help you think about some possible solutions. It might help to learn how we define guardianship and conservatorship.

A guardianship is sometimes necessary when an individual has lost sufficient functional or cognitive capacity to make or communicate significant, responsible decisions about their health and safety. A conservatorship may be necessary when an individual can no longer make financial transactions or decisions for themselves.

In this case, you can probably figure out Alan’s children decided they needed to seek guardianship AND conservatorship over their father. You can find several of the reasons in the details given in the case. Next week we will chat about why guardianship was needed and the process the Jones children had to take to protect their dad. Luckily, they were guided every step of the way by our expert team at Hurley Elder Care Law. If your family is struggling with a worrisome situation such as this, call our office at 404-843-0121 to discuss your options.


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