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How can I take legal control over elderly parent's finances who is unwilling, but showing signs of incompetence?

Bothell, WA |

My father is losing thousands of dollars to Nigerian scams and he will not listen to the advice and cautions the family is giving him. He is nearly 80 years old, stubborn and ignorant. What can I do to prevent this from happening? Can I inhibit certain activities? Can I legally proxy his finances?

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Attorney answers 7


You will need to see a lawyer experienced in guardianship and conservatorships. These are court appointed fiduciaries. The conservator will have control over his assets. A guardian is in charge of his physical well being, support, medicine etc.
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Where the onset of either Alzheimer's or Dementia has arrived, the court can appoint a Guardian and/or Conservator who will have Fiduciary responsibility and is legally allowed to make appropriate financial, medical, nursing home decisions. The Nigerian oil scams were exposed by the FBI many years ago and they have also pursued recovery. I'd sit down with a Washington-state licensed Elder Law attorney and sort out your best options moving forward. Look on Avvo.Com under 'Find-A-Lawyer' and get started now to stop the financial bleeding.


Both attorneys offer sound advice. You need to have an attorney who regularly does conservatorships petition the court to allow you to take control. Sadly, this is going to be tough on all concerned so be prepared for some really tough moments.

Hope this helps.

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I agree with the other attorneys' advice, but in Washington, the term for a "conservator" is a limited guardian of the estate, whereas a general guardian has authority over both the person and their property (the "estate"). The appointment of a guardian is available only through the courts, and requires a finding of the proposed incapacitated person is not competent to handle their own affairs. Once established, the guardianship proceeds under the periodic reporting to and review by the court.

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The only way to get control of this situation is to have a guardianship/conservatorship established.
You will need the help of local attorney to assist you.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.


The court has the authority to declare your father to be “incapacitated” and turn over control of his finances to a legal guardian if it determines that he “is at significant risk of financial harm based upon a demonstrated inability to adequately manage property or financial affairs.”

However, the guardianship process is set up to protect your father’s civil rights. That means he has the right to contest a guardianship, and even demand a jury trial on the issue of his competence. Therefore, it could take some time to resolve this, and it could get costly, but the court could authorize reimbursement of your legal fees from your father’s assets if the judge finds that you brought the petition in good faith.

A slightly different course of action may be available if your father has a power of attorney; the agent named to manage his finances in the POA could petition the court for an order declaring the POA to be valid and in effect (and that your father can no longer revoke it, which he may try to do if he doesn’t like what they are doing), however, the time and expense involved would be about the same as with a guardianship.

This is potentially complicated and it would be worth your while to discuss specifics with an attorney one-on-one.

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You need to engage a lawyer to review the merits of filing for a financial guardianship (conservatorship) over your father's finances. The lawyer will let you know if such an action is viable, and if so, assist you in preparing the petition and scheduling a hearing. Ultimately, a judge will have to rule on whether your father is a "vulnerable adult" and needs a conservator to protect his finances in his best interests

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