How can we handle finances if there is no appointed power of attorney?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 02, 2016
Tierhar asked...

My mother-in-law is on life support and has no power of attorney. We anticipate a long hospitalization. How can we take care of her finances if no one is appointed to that position right now?


Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

You may be able to proceed informally for a short time"”that is, pay bills and necessities if there is a co-signor on your mother-in-law's bank or checking accounts or if they are jointly owned,

But if the accounts are not set up this way and you anticipate the hospitalization will be lengthy, there your best approach may be to secure a conservatorship, sometimes called an adult guardianship, for her.

A conservatorship can be set up if a judge decides that your mother-in-law can't take care of herself or her finances"”which seems easy to plead and prove given that she is on life support. The judge will then appoint a person or organization to take on the financial management duties.

Conservatorships are generally processed through the local probate court, which you can find by searching "probate court," along with the name of your city or county.

In your case, you would be wise to check into a temporary or emergency conservatorship, which will allow for an expedited appointment. Most court websites contain information about how to proceed with this locally. If not, contact the clerk of the probate court for more specific information.