It can be a great act of kindness when a person serves as a conservator for an elderly loved one, making important financial decisions for a person who no longer has the capacity to make these decision. However, California law gives conservators a lot of power over another person, and the potential for abuse is serious. The courts must be sure the conservator is acting in the elderly person's best interest.
A disturbing story about the actress Nichelle Nichols recently brought this issue to light. Nichols, 86, who is best known for playing Lieutenant Uhura on the original "Star Trek" television series, is reportedly suffering from dementia. Her son has been named as her conservator, but some of Nichols' long-time friends have expressed concern that she is being exploited for her money.
Nichols' long-time manager recently gave news organizations video footage of an apparent fight between Nichols and her son in which she claims she never consented to the conservatorship arrangement. Another friend filed court papers asking that Nichols be removed from conservatorship.
Police officers reportedly visited Nichols' home and investigated the situation after seeing the video footage. Nichols' son declined to speak to reporters.
It is heart-wrenching to see a loved one in mental and physical decline, and it can be hard for people outside of the family to know when an elderly person's complaints about a conservatorship represent genuine distress. Still, the rights of the elderly must be protected and the court must always be sure a conservator is acting with integrity.
A lawyer with experience in conservatorships can help people understand their options and guide them through the best ways to protect the vulnerable.