As ABC10's year-long investigation shines a light on the fiduciary and conservatorship system in California, as well as its lack of oversight, we want to ensure this series both educates viewers on how conservatorships work, as well as help people protect themselves and their loved ones.
Whether you’re open to a conservatorship or not, we’ve compiled resources and suggestions to help ensure your wishes are executed the way you want. The following list was compiled from books, studies and talking with multiple experts.
The first recommendation we heard across the board is to try and resolve family disputes.
“If you don’t want a conservatorship, get along with your family members,” Linda Kincaid, Co-founder of Coalition for Elder and Disability Rights, said. “You can hate them if you want, but don’t make it public… and certainly don’t take it into the court.”
While Kincaid’s opinion is to avoid court, avoidance of the court can potentially be detrimental in not having the maker of the trust wishes fulfilled. That’s why the second recommendation we found is to ensure all your documents are in order, so if you do have to go to the court or bring these to other family members, it’s clear what your wishes wanted.
Cunningham Legal recommends the following list of documents be fully executed and well-vetted:
- Durable Power of Attorney for all matters (Property, Healthcare, etc.)
- Advance Healthcare Directive (Power of Attorney for Healthcare)
- HIPPA Authorization
- Living Will
- Living Trust
- “Pour-Over Will”
Multiple legal experts noted that ensuring your Durable Power of Attorney is especially important and should be in the hands of someone you deeply trust, as this position acts as an agent on your behalf.
Cunningham Legal also recommends if you’re elderly or ill, to consider easing someone into acting as your agent over a period of time. If you believe a conservatorship could happen to you or someone you know, and you or them are not against it, they recommend documentation of the person you desire to serve as conservator, as well as informing that person you would appoint them in this scenario.
For people opposed to conservatorship, Dr. Sam Sugar, founder of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianships, recommends recording a video message where you or the person who wants to avoid a conservatorship expresses your/their wishes, as well as making it clear a conservatorship is expressly forbid.
- Throughout ABC10's investigation, we met Linda Kincaid and Richard Calhoun, who discussed their own experience with abusive conservatorships. They formed CEDAR to focus on human rights of the elderly and disabled in California, especially persons under conservatorship.
- If you’d like to get in touch with Richard Calhoun or Linda Kincaid of the Coalition for Elder and Disability Rights, click here.
- The Spectrum Institute is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of California that is focused on research, education and advocacy efforts “primarily directed to conservatorship reform in California and guardianship reform in other states throughout the nation."
- Dr. Sam Sugar is the founder of this organization. The Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianships also has a designated place where you can go for help or report a case to them. They have a list of advocates based by certain states. They also have a portion of their website dedicated to helpful links.
- The Center for Estate Administration Reform [CEAR] is lead by Terri and Rick Black, who both have experience with guardianship abuse. Rick was featured in the documentary film “The Guardians.”
- The National Association to Stop Guardianship Abuse’s [NASGA] goal is to protect civil and human rights of adults described as “incompetent.” This organization has a wide range of resources, including a section on its website dedicated to helping you know your rights.
In ABC10's series, we introduce you to Michael Hackard, who is both an experienced attorney in trust and estate law, as well as an advocate of elder rights. He wrote the book, The Wolf at the Door: Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse and posts weekly YouTube tutorial videos to help those navigating the complex field of trust issues, conservatorships and estate law. You can access all his YouTube tutorials by clicking here.
If you’d like to look up a fiduciary to see if they have any prior record before hiring them, you can do that through the Department of Consumer Affairs’ [DCA] license look up. Here are the steps:
- Go to the DCA License Search
- In “Boards and Bureaus” select “Professional Fiduciaries Licensing Bureau”
- Search by license number or name, click enter
- When you find the fiduciary you’re looking into, click the small box in the right corner that says “more detail”
- The initial information provided should be listed including name, license type, status of license and the fiduciary’s address.
- To see how much assets they handle or if they’ve had any prior citations or reprimands, click “Fiduciary Information” under Public Records.
If you’re interested in learning more about California legislation in our series that’s aimed at changing the fiduciary and conservatorship industry, click on the title below. We’ve also included a link to each legislator’s office who backed the bill, if you’d like to contact them to show support or concern about their legislation.
Here are more links to relevant and resourceful articles:
- Avoiding a Conservatorship, Cunningham Legal
- Sacramento County Public Law Library how it works and what steps you can take in legal alternatives to conservatorship, including a power of attorney or advanced healthcare directive
- Beware of the Con in Conservatorships: A Perfect Storm for Financial Elder Abuse in California, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys