How to declared an alcoholic loved one incompetent to save his finances?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 12, 2016
Dyann asked...

My Uncle is a 79 year old alcoholic living in a retirement facility. It has recently come to light, through a series of overdrafts, that he has spent all of his discretionary money (53.000) as of 18 months ago, and now only has 2700 dollars in SS and pensions. The home is charging him 2400, which is a discount from their usual 2900.00 My uncle thinks someone stole all his money: the home, the bank, his sister and now me are all suspects to him. I did an analysis of his bank account and found that he spent and gave away all his money to other alcoholics at the bar and to various charities. I am trying to prevent further financial damage by having him declared incompetent. He is bitter and violent at times, and would like a way to deal with him in a more detached manner than face to face conversations. I was recently given permission by him to be a signer on his bank account, which gave me access to the past 18 months of statements. ;He has been in the home 18 months. Please direct me how to get the control without lawyers, as nobody has any money in this situation. Thank you

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a 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.

It sounds as if your uncle may be a good candidate for a conservatorship, also called an adult guardianship, which gives someone the legal right to make necessary decisions on behalf of another person who cannot live independently. It would allow the person appointed to oversee or personally be responsible for the other's care and control. It is sort of a court-monitored custody arrangement for an adult who needs help.

If you do go this route, surviving family members, and your uncle, will be notified about the procedure and may contest it. It will be up to the court to decide whether the conservatorship is the best solution.

You could petition the court to be appointed your uncle's conservator, but given your explanation of his bitter, violent and unpredictable behavior, you understandably may want to take yourself out of the picture and ask for a court-appointed conservator. Although this person would not likely know your uncle well, it may be just the kind of objective intervention required.

How to proceed with this process depends on the set-up of your local probate court; they vary wildly. Courts in some places have established some very good self-help centers that provide necessary forms and instructions for how to complete and file them. Find out by doing a search of the city or county in which your uncle lives and the words "conservatorship" or "guardianship."

I know you want to keep away from the expense and other possible distaste of hiring a lawyer. But if your court does not provide good help, or the idea of going it alone just seems too overwhelming, you should be able to get referrals for low-cost or even free experienced legal help through the local or state bar association.