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Beginner’s Guide To Conservatorships

Like most of us you probably spend a fair amount of time each month compiling lists of your spouse’s mental and physical deteriorations.

Is everyone familiar with the term “conservatorship”? Some guy at the Forest Club explained it to me as finding an expert called a “Conservator” (also called a Guardian) to check to see if your wife is losing her marbles. If she’s getting forgetful or confused (burned the toast, can’t spell or pronounce Nasturtium) then a Conservator intervenes and gives you all her money and car keys.

That’s a simplification of the procedure, but pretty close. It’s only prudent. There may come a point you need to convince someone from some agency, in this case the busybodies at one of those adult protection rackets, that your wife has gone mildly bananas. If you’ve got the specifics, including times and dates, a judge gives you her stuff.

(The beauty of Conservatorships is there’s no need to allow a pack of hungry lawyers into the proceedings, denying them from gorging on your meager nest egg. It always ends when no more bones remain to litigate, and they announce your portion is 25 percent of the leftovers.)

Financial planners agree retirees with shaky incomes should consider proactive measures to reduce the likelihood of an impoverished future. No one, least of all you or I, should wind up eating dog food and sleeping in a beat-to-death ’83 Yugo. Especially if you can just as easily sleep in your wife’s Cadillac. Examples: If she doesn’t know where her great grandmother was born or is unable to locate Constantinople on a map, thinks Janis Joplin once played at Ukiah High School or has ever written the wrong date in her checkbook, take note. List those deficiencies for future ammunition.

Does she exhibit mood swings, like if the internet goes out for a few days, or you forget your anniversary? Has she ever misplaced her cellphone or not remembered the name of Herbert Hoover’s vice president? If you list and date (preferably with witnesses) all these cognitive failures, it makes it easy for the Conservator to deem your wife incompetent to handle her affairs.

For Instance: While in North Carolina Trophy began watching reruns of a Turkish TV show called Resurrection and never stopped, pausing only for bathroom breaks. The program had several hundred (!) 40 minute episodes and she watched several hundred them.

Clearly she’s no longer capable of handling her own affairs. Resurrection is the stupidest TV series since Love Boat but with a subtracted disadvantage of being a daily soap opera, narrated and spoken in a language she cannot comprehend. And no subtitles.

She wouldn’t know if episodes were randomly shuffled and dialogue lifted from a Portuguese cooking show.

(My Notes: Lays on couch. Catatonic. Unresponsive to inquiries re: mental health; indifferent to growing collection of bedsores.)

Example Two and Strike Three: a video game she plays on her cellphone in Ukiah is kinda like Bingo with Legos. She plays (she will verify) 12 hours a day. All the game does is make her swear and forget to feed the dog.

Has she gone ‘round the bend? Is she unable to care for herself? Is it time to consult a Conservator?

Of course I don’t know what’s important in demonstrating cognitive decline, so I keep records of everything. She didn’t rinse out her coffee cup before refilling it? Seems insignificant to me but perhaps a trained, professional Conservator would find it highly suggestive of critical mental impairment. Inability to remember her age? I ask three times a week and she always says “39.” So she thinks we married when she was 13 years old? (For the record, we’ve never even been to Arkansas.)

You may think my covert machinations are unseemly and wicked. Perhaps so. But what do you say when I tell you I’ve discovered Trophy’s compilation of fabricated allegations to serve as cause to put me under Conservatorship?

She’s cooked up a scheme to steal my money using unethical legal maneuvers so she can run off to Venice to take up with a 20-year old unemployed gondolier. His name is Polo-Boy, has two cats, wears tight pants and lives in a cottage behind his parents’ house.

At least until he and Trophy can go buy a big villa on Lake Como, and I’m forced to live in my stinkin’ Yugo.

(TWK reports a talented local writer, Dan Hibshman, has a new book called “Of a Lifetime Stories 1963-2023.” It opens with Dan’s dad, Bennie Hibshman, putting the brace on mob boss Meyer Lansky in downtown Cleveland, goes through much of Dan’s Mendo years, and includes a harrowing account of a blighted 1997 journey to the Czech Republic. Tom Hine knows the tale, has not yet read the story. Get ‘Of a Lifetime” at Mendo Book Co.)

One Comment

  1. Elaine Renoire September 30, 2023

    Mr. Kramer: Conservatorship is designed to be a measure of last resort for very good reasons, including the fact that conservatorship strips the conservatee of his/her fundamental rights and liberties — leaving the conservatee with nowhere to go for help if he/she is being exploited or abused by the court-appointed conservator. Conservatorships are also very expensive and involve a lawyer for the conservator and likely one for the person in the conservatorship and sometimes a lawyer for the court — all paid by the conservatee. Very often much more money is spent on the court proceedings than on the person who the conservatorship was created for. In some cases, millions are spent very quickly with the person in conservatorship is helpless to stop the financial bleeding.

    Conservatorship abuse is a growing problem nationally. Thankfully, not all conservators nor conservatorships are bad. But when they are, they’re devastating.

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