If you are in guardianship/conservatorship litigation, or about to enter litigation, the first thing to do is read and devour the guardianship and conservatorship laws of your state.* You may think it’s your attorney’s job to know, advise, and take care of you. After all, that’s what you’re paying dearly for.
But here’s the reality: attorneys get paid whether they win or lose your case. Most want to win, of course, because of dedication, compassion, pride, or ego. But, if you lose, you still pay your attorney. You both go to the bank – you to make a withdrawal, your attorney to make a deposit!
And attorneys make mega bucks by taking on lots of cases. They juggle their expanding caseload and give minimal attention to the cases in the forefront, saving maximum attention for litigation. To you, there is only one case in the world; to your attorney, you’re one of many in the stack.
Because it’s your case, and because guardianship/conservatorship many times involves life and death, it’s to your advantage to know as much about guardianship/conservatorship law as your attorney. All guardianships, for instance, by law must contain certain aspects of due process, including notice to the AIP (alleged incompetent person), a hearing to determine incompetency, etc. If you know there was no incompetency hearing in your case, as an example, then you’ve got something to shout about! A jurisdictional issue can have the whole case thrown out of court and end your nightmare!
So, don’t totally count solely on your attorney. Count on you!
Not all attorneys are bad. Many or most take pride in their profession and pour their heart and soul into their caseload. Still, many attorneys are members of the “good old boy’s club” or “incest club.” Sometimes, they work for the guardian – sometimes they work for you. Sometimes they work for each other by trading or referring clients. If you familiarize yourself with the state statutes, and your attorney feeds you a line, you’ll taste baloney instead of the condiments.
If your don’t know your rights, consider you’re standing in front of this tank!
Become as active in your own case as your attorney is or you wish your attorney is, so you’ll have a fighting chance. Instruct your attorney that you want a copy of everything in regard to your case – meaning everything your attorney filed in your behalf and everything the other side filed against you. You want it all so you can review and ask your attorney appropriate questions.
And this is important – Go over the guardian’s fees and the guardian’s attorney’s fees with a fine-toothed comb or you’ll hear the deafening sound of the judge’s rubberstamp awarding them every cent they request.
The old adage, “There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM” applies. You can either let your attorney do all the work and hope and pray he/she knows everything and is as involved and interested in your case as you are, or you can join forces with your attorney and work together to defeat your enemy. Sure, your attorney has graduated law school and knows more about the law than you do; but just because your attorney has a law degree, doesn’t mean he/she is a good strategist or is really any smarter than you are.
Know your rights and you’ll have a better chance of keeping them!*
*HELPFUL HINTS: To help you find the specific code in your state which applies to guardianship or conservatorship, click this helpful link to The National Resource Center for Supported Decision-Making and click on your state.
Here’s another great resource: Click this link to the Centers for Elders and Courts website and scroll to the bottom of the main page. There you’ll find a U.S. state map. Click your state for information on elder abuse laws, probate laws, state task force activities, and additional state resources. All in one place!
To find State and Federal elder abuse statutes for your state, click this link at the USDoJ: Elder Justice Initiative website.
Forewarned is forearmed! Learn more…..