Swerdloff Law Firm May 2018


www.lawwithasmile.com • 310-577-9104

MAY 2018


Independence and Conservatorships

I work with a lot of folks who care for elderly family members. They’re often concerned about making important decisions for their ailing relatives. I’ve also heard these concerns from parents of children with special needs. As their children grow into adolescence, these families require assistance to help their kids thrive on the path toward adulthood.

That’s where the life-changing gift of a conservatorship can come into play.

Not long ago, I got a frantic call from a parent. Her son — we’ll call him Mark — was about to turn 18. In the eyes of the law, this made him an adult. However, Mark lacked the ability to make decisions about his schooling and medical needs. He depended on his parents, and they’d been dedicated caregivers to him for the last 18 years. Mark’s mom was looking for a way to continue that support after he turned 18. She was anxious and uncertain. parents to continue in their roles as caretakers. By successfully petitioning for a conservatorship, Mark’s parents were able to remain caretakers and help make the best decisions for their son. In California, when a judge deems an individual unable to care for themselves, a conservator may be appointed. It’s a big responsibility. You’re signing on to look after the financial matters and daily well-being of the person under your care. But I’ve seen how beneficial it can be for some families.

That being said, sometimes an individual with special needs can adequately care for themselves. In some cases, they’re capable of making their own decisions, and being granted that autonomy allows them to reach their full potential. In 2016, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act, which went into effect in 2017. This act allows individuals with special needs to self- settle their trusts, giving them authority over their lives. This was life-changing for another client of mine, a young college student who made his own trust with the money he had inherited. He could now establish his own financial future, and that empowered him. The act gives self-respect back to independent people with special needs and helps them feel like participants in their lives rather than bystanders.

The beauty of having these options is that a family can make the best choice for their situation, whether that’s a conservatorship or independence. If helping a youth reach autonomy could help them live a better life, wouldn’t we want them to have that? Our parents are our caretakers; they bring us into the world and teach us how to become independent. For some, that role will last a lifetime. For others, the roles will reverse, and the child will care for their parents. Both forms of care are life-changing, but the reassurance that a loved one will be taken care of is one of the most valuable gifts you can ever give someone.

–Arthur J. Swerdloff


www.lawwithasmile.com • 310-577-9104

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