We want to believe that, should we ever become incapacitated, the people we trust to protect us will behave honorably. A recent California court decision shows that, unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Houston residents young and old should heed the court’s warning in this case, which it described as a “textbook” example of a fiduciary relationship gone wrong. The case concerned an elderly woman and her son. The son was his mother’s durable power of attorney. In this role, he had broad rights to manage his mother’s property once she became incapacitated in her advanced age. The mother had a separate conservator of her person and estate.
In Texas, the role of a conservator (or guardian) of a person’s estate is comprehensive. Such a conservator has authority over their ward’s physical care, including the ability to make decisions about their education, residence, medical treatment, and even their daily activities. They also control their ward’s financial decisions, including both long-term and day-to-day management of money, personal property, and real estate. Clearly, conservatorships and guardianships can be ripe for fraud and abuse.