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By Lori Cochrane, CLPF


Though it’s a work of fiction, the movie, I Care a Lot, has raised questions about conservatorships, how they work, and the role of Professional Conservators, also known as Professional Fiduciaries. The movie depicts a con artist who makes her living convincing various courts to grant her conservatorship over elders who she pretends cannot care for themselves. She then sells their assets and pockets the money. Could this really happen? Could it happen to you?


There are so many questions about the movie’s portrayal of conservatorship that I have decided to speak up and set the record straight. Don’t forget, movies are entertainment. It is far more entertaining to look for all the bad things in one industry and splice them together as though they all happened at one time by one person, compared to simply stating reality.


What is a conservatorship and what is its purpose?

A conservatorship is the legal appointment of a protector by a judge to manage the personal, medical, and/or financial affairs of an adult due to incapacity. Conservatorship is serious. It is not taken lightly. To be conserved is to lose independence. Our society deems that conservatorship is necessary in order to protect someone for two reasons: if you become incapacitated, and if you have not already assigned someone to serve with your authority as your agent with powers of attorney.

Basically, if you don’t declare who will speak for you if you are not able, then a judge has to assign somebody for you. Personally, I’d rather have control of who that person is. Read on to learn how to do that.


The laws concerning the establishment and continuing administration of a Conservatorship in the State of California can be found in California Probate Code Section 1400-3925. Google “California Probate Code” for access to a catalog of information.


What is a Licensed Professional Fiduciary (LPF)? We are individuals who have been licensed by the State of California’s Department of Consumer Affairs under the Professional Fiduciary Bureau. There are rigorous testing and educational requirements to be met to obtain a license, and constant monitoring and educational requirements to maintain a license. LPFs often serve as agents with powers of attorney, guardians, conservators, administrators, or executors in probate proceedings, and as trustees of trusts. Regardless of which role an LPF is serving in, and despite what you may see depicted in a movie, we are always overseen by either a court or by family members or individuals who have an interest in the person and assets being managed.


Is a conservatorship necessary if I have a power of attorney? A power of attorney often eliminates the need for a conservatorship altogether. However, to sign a power of attorney, a person must have the capacity to sign a legal document with a full understanding of intent.


How do I get a power of attorney? You may find that an attorney who specializes in Estate Planning will serve as the best consultant for you. An attorney may help you determine whether a Trust is necessary, and can draft documents for you to sign which give authority to people you wish to serve as your agent with power of attorney if you are not able.


Arming yourself with the facts about California Conservatorship will help you make the right decisions for your loved ones and bring you peace of mind. See more facts and frequently asked questions at https://californiaconservatorshipfacts.com/.


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Cochrane Support Services provides specialized fiduciary services in the Placer County area and throughout the region. We are Professional Fiduciaries with specialized skill sets.

You can reach us at (916) 705-7309, or email us at info@cochranecss.com



~ High-touch, specialized skill sets, and continuity ~


When it’s time to hire fiduciaries, you want to know that your needs will be met professionally and according to your instructions. You don’t want to have to wonder about how ethical your fiduciary is or worry about gaps in areas of expertise. In other words, you want a trustworthy, full-service fiduciary that will focus on your unique needs. You want Cochrane Support Services. Our person-centered approach focuses on your individual needs while maintaining the highest professional standards. We focus on you, working to preserve your dignity and protect your financial and healthcare decisions. Read on to discover three things that set us apart.


High-touch We answer our own phones and stay connected even outside of typical business hours. We follow through ourselves, overseeing every aspect of your wishes, personally. Our business model is unique compared to other fiduciary firms where you’ll often find receptionists, case managers, or other stopping points before reaching the actual fiduciary. Not here at Cochrane Support Services. We take the time to engage directly with you, your family, vendors, financial institutions, etc… It’s about dignity and respect. We stand in your shoes.


Specialized skill sets Specialization is our super power. Other fiduciaries often take on situations in which the full gamut of needs is legally assigned to one individual fiduciary. (Assignments are legally made only to an individual fiduciary, not a company name). Taking on all the roles means that one person needs to know everything about managing a client's well-being, their assets, and perhaps even protecting loved ones’ public benefits. We don't pretend any one of us can do all those things.


Continuity

We are ready to serve now, and will be ready in twenty years. The maturity to handle complicated situations in a savvy way evolves over time. That doesn't mean a person needs to be nearing retirement themselves in order to understand the nuances of such a life change. In fact, choosing people to stand in your shoes, as your surrogate decision-makers, means choosing people who will be ready for the long haul, whenever that time may come.

The continuity of our business is ensured with its corporate status and stakeholders who are invested in continuing the legacy. No one at Cochrane Support Services is nearing retirement. Some other fiduciaries never stop taking clients, even as they approach retirement, or they take on this role after retiring from another field of work, planning on it being short-term. Perhaps they’re gambling that you’ll need services sooner rather than later. But what’s at stake is the longevity of your planning. We’re prepared to continue providing stellar service for many years to come.

  • Guest Writer -- Alexandria Goff, Esq., Goff Legal, PC

After the passing of a loved one, there are many steps to take. Some of them are legal, many of them are not. But the honest truth is that it takes a lot of time and doesn't always make a lot of sense. There are the first arrangements to make, contacting companies (often multiple times), and then executing your loved one's wishes. Each institution has different form(s) that they want to be filled out.

Sometimes they lose the forms, or they won't give you ANY information. It can be quite frustrating...and of course, some-times the family doesn't like what you are doing, or that the process isn't fast enough. To try and ease the burden we have created a checklist for people to use as a guide to help keep them on track with the process. While it doesn't have every scenario, it has a lot of the big "check-list" items.

Goff Legal - What to do when a loved one
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Download • 3.09MB

If you review the list and think... "that is a lot for my family to take on..." you always have

the option of hiring a professional fiduciary to take on that responsibility. Fiduciaries are sometimes called to act when there are no surviving family members to take on the role of executor and/or trustee. But, in times of family dispute, or extreme grief, the assistance of a professional can ease the burden and allow for the process to move more smoothly. Consider talking with a professional about how they might help with your estate when you are gone.