What do I need to prove to get a conservatorship on my family trust?
I teach at a university in a different city, but lately I have received emails from my father's email address stating that he paid over $21,000 to a local auto mechanic for unneeded repairs on a car that is worth $20,000; he paid about $62,000 to a local company to put a solar panel on the roof of the house and the highest price I could find online for home solar panels was a fraction of that; he has been selling things that belonged to my family for a fraction of the value and he hasn't had a real job in years, and so forth. My father had a PhD and he was frugal, so I can't believe that this is my real father, but if senility is the issue and he controls the family trust and I am a contingent beneficiary, can I just show a judge how illogical these transactions are, or do I have to go further in proving anything? (For example, would I need a psychologist to say that he is senile, would I need a financial professional to do an asset search and show how poorly he is managing the family trust, etc.?)
3 Answers from Attorneys
A conservatorship is separate from acting as trustee of a trust. In California there are multiple documents you have to file in a conservatorship proceeding. One of them is a Capacity Declaration completed by your father's physician. The court also does its own investigation and then you file several documents showing the reasons why a conservatorship is necessary. You will have to allege why your father's trust and/or durable power of attorney are not sufficient and a conservatorship is needed instead. If your father objects to the conservatorship then the court will appoint an attorney to represent your father.
There are a lot of documents and particular service requirements for a conservatorship and I recommend that you have an attorney assist you. But first, you should see if there is a less expensive or time consuming procedure under the trust or power of attorney to get someone in place to handle your father's finances if it is needed.
You clearly need to seek capable counsel to assist. It is far more complex than just getting a couple of opinions as to his capabilities, as Jennifer has indicated. If you have a trust, the trust instrument may make it simpler, but you need to read the document (if you even have access to a copy). If there is no trust a conservatorship is the right way to proceed.
I agree with both previous answers. You are going to need an attorney to help you obtain a conservatorship over your father. That is not a particularly quick process, however, and it sounds like you have immediate need, because it sounds like your father is the victim of elder financial abuse. You should contact the District Attorney for the county where your father lives and ask them to investigate his recent transactions. Their investigation will also be useful in the conservatorship proceeding.