This past summer, Frank Fritz from the popular TV show American Pickers suffered a debilitating stroke. He spent a month in the hospital before being released to a nursing facility. While receiving medical care, it was determined Fritz’ decision-making capacity was diminished to the point that he is unable to care for his own safety. He could no longer take care of activities of daily living like eating, dressing, and managing his medical care. Most significantly, his mental and physical state did not allow him to make decisions regarding his financial affairs. Because of his limitations, an Iowa court appointed a bank to become the temporary conservator of Fritz’s assets. Fritz has expressed frustration with the limitations of his conservatorship, including a stipulation that prohibits active responsibility for his antique business.
Sadly, we too often see individuals who have become unable to take care of themselves dissatisfied with the guardian or conservator appointed by a court. Unfortunately, most individuals do not plan for who should take care of their financial affairs in the event that individual becomes disabled. Without a plan, these individuals will have their assets controlled by a court-appointed fiduciary. Fortunately, most court-appointed conservators do try to work with the ward, friends, and family to pay the ward’s bills and respect the ward’s financial priorities.
When individuals do plan, they sometimes nominate as the conservator a family member or friend who will not be a good manager of the money. The person nominated may be stealing from the individual, have a drug or gambling addiction, or simply be irresponsible. In making the decision as to who will best serve the interest of the now-disabled individual, the judge has the discretion to appoint someone other than the nominated caregivers if the court believes that the caregiver will not act in the best interest of the individual.
Wills determine what happens to your assets after you die; powers of attorney dictate how you want to live the remainder of your life if you cannot speak for yourself. Even if you don’t have millions to safeguard, you should consult an estate planning attorney and put in writing how you would like your affairs handled and your assets managed in the event you are unable to do that yourself. If an individual becomes disabled and without a plan in place or if that plan fails, Weinberg Elder Law, LLC can help you choose the legal option to best protect the seniors you love. Call us today at 404-969-5648 for a consultation.