My family member is having trouble handling their financial (or health) affairs. What can be done to assist and protect them?

The first thing that you should do is to look for any estate planning documents that they may have.  Do they have a living trust or power of attorney for financial affairs or healthcare?  If so, they have named a trustee or agent to assist them with their affairs.

If there are no documents, the person should see an attorney and have them drafted right away.  If the person has the capacity to understand what they own and who will take care of them, and can understand the benefits, risks and effects of signing such documents, then they have the capacity to create and sign a trust and power of attorney documents.  An estate planning attorney can help evaluate whether they have the capacity to sign such documents.  It is best to get these documents done as soon as possible, before their condition worsens.

If they do not have the capacity to sign such documents, then the court will need to be involved.  A conservatorship can be done for developmentally disabled adults and other adults that can no longer take care of themselves.  Getting a conservatorship over someone can be a long, complicated and expensive process.  Having a trust, financial power of attorney and advance healthcare directive in place can help avoid having to get a conservatorship and can keep you out of court.