Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Conservatorship court date looms

With a new court date coming up next week the issues around the proposed conservatorship for my mother are heating up. I see the conservatorship as a way to place an independent third-party in charge of my mothers's investments and Idaho farm operation. A conservartorship is a legal way to take money issues off the table when family members can't agree. The family members involved here would be my 60-year-old sister, me and  my 95-year-old mom, who just wants to go on living in her farm house surrounding by growing crops. The banker involved in this now saying  a conservatorship won't work because most of my mother's assets are in two separate  trusts, one set up before my father died in 1991 and the other in mom's name, created more recently. Both trusts are to benefit my mother with my sister and I as heirs.  Legally, a conservator has no right to manage the trusts so the banker wants the court to name the bank as trustee replacing my mother. On paper  it sounds OK: the least terrible of a  number of options including letting things go on as they are with my sister and I not speaking, mother confused and oblivious, wanting to know why I can't forgive my sister for calling the police and accusing me of kidnapping when I took her to lunch during the Thanksgiving holiday. This issue really involves both my mother and my sister, who is bi-polar and on mental health disability. As in some bi-polar cases, my somewhat paranoid  sister has come to think that she's my mother's keeper in ways that cause frustration and discomfort for both my mother and for me. I want to keep a roof over both their heads, let my mother go on living in her house as long as possible, but put some limits on my sister's spending, thus lowering the tension among the three of us. Not easy or maybe not possible. As I've entered my 60's I've found that things can get complicated with family. A group of my women friends gather regularly to discuss our aging parents (most in their 90s) and how to manage their decline into (real) old age. Conservatorship law varies from state to state and is different from a guardianship where the individual is declared incompetent. My mother is not incompetent, still knows what day it is and what happened with the Dow Jones. But she can no longer see the big picture, force her will on her children or her business associates and is easily influenced by whom ever talks to her last. I'll keep you posted. For those interested in learning more about conservatorships, click here.

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