PRESIDENT’S COLUMN

11:58 p.m.

This is a perfectly respectable time to go to sleep, especially after the busy week I’ve had. 

I know it’s a Saturday night, and my 24-yearold self would have called the 44-year-old me an old lady for going to bed this early. But it’s basically midnight. We’ve had a great day and a fabulous night: a very early morning (given a high school cross country meet), a fun evening with dear friends, great food, and lots of laughs – always lots of laughs.  And a lot of wine this particular night. We have managed to convince our friends to stay the night, so I have no worries about anybody driving home. After the food, the wine, and the lack of sleep, I should be sound asleep. And yet, here I am, the only one awake.  

12:23 a.m. I now have a cup of decaffeinated tea and the cat to keep me company.  

I have to call my client first thing on Monday morning.  I’ve owed him a call since Thursday, but haven’t had a moment in the office free to check in with him.  Hope he doesn’t think that I have forgotten about him. 

He was appointed as temporary conservator for an elderly grandmother whose family couldn’t take care of her, and he chose me to be his attorney.  

She is severely demented. She has lost touch with all that was real to her: the day she was married; the moments that she gave birth to her children; days that the Tooth Fairy and Santa visited her when she was a little girl, and when they came back to visit her children; birthdays, anniversaries and decades of New Year’s Eves – to my thinking, everything that makes her the person she is – that she was.

She has a daughter who loves her, but cannot care for her. She has a son who cares for her, but does not seem to love her. She had a husband who loved her and cared for her, but he is now gone. She has grandchildren who love the idea of her, but are too busy to make time for her. 

Right now, she is in a nursing home, and has had more people come into her life in the last 90 days than she has had in the last two years.  The doctors who have diagnosed, treated, poked and prodded her, the nurses who help her to eat, bathe and keep her clean, and the social workers who alerted the county to the problem with her family.  She has a judge who appointed a conservator for her, her conservator, and me. My client and I have done our best in a few short weeks to try to figure out the life of this 83-year-old, and how we can start to manage it for her: background; family; medical conditions; general likes and dislikes.  

A million questions flood my mind. Did she lose her wedding ring years ago as her daughter claimed? Or did her eldest daughter take it from her and sell it, as her son claimed? If her children love her and care about her the way they each pronounce, why did they allow her to live in near squalor, with uneaten meals sitting in the fridge for weeks, medications not properly supervised, and the utilities almost turned off, especially when she has plenty of money?

Ah yes, the money.  How much money does she have exactly, and how much has it been depleted over the last year or so when her daughter started to “help take care of mom?” Was she competent when she signed that power of attorney a few years ago, and did she know how much actual power she was giving away? She only has about $1100 in social security coming in every month… if the house is in really bad shape and we can’t sell it right away, how is my client going handle her cash-flow needs?  We need to talk about Medi-Cal planning for her, but does it make sense to spend legal fees on planning for a person to go on welfare?  And estate planning – that will she signed earlier this year certainly can’t be valid, but how are we going to prove that?  And does it even matter, if we think she’s going to be impoverished anyway within the year?  The judge is never going to approve all this time I’m spending if she ends up not having any money. But what can we do now?  We’re too deep into it to stop.

Of course there’s the other money that her family says she has… and the estate of her sister in Minnesota who just died, and our conservatee is the only heir. That will help.  But that probate just opened, and what’s going on with it anyway? How long does it take to probate an estate in Minnesota? I need to call that attorney in Minneapolis.  Another call I’ll have to make on Monday.  

12:43 a.m. Seriously, Kendall.  It’s almost 1:00 in the morning, go to sleep.  I’m not going to be able to figure any of this stuff out now. At least it’s Saturday night and not Sunday, maybe I can sleep in late tomorrow.  Unless my stupid cat Jack wakes up early again.  

Oh her cat. Shoot, I forgot all about the cat.  Misty was in the house with her when Adult Protective Services went out to investigate  initially. In addition to getting the ball rolling to take care of the conservatee, APS also called Animal Control to take care of Misty. That’s another message on my desk from last week – the animal control officer calling to remind me that Misty is off quarantine next week, and should they put her out for adoption, or what? Yes, or what? In cat years, Misty has got to be as old as our conservatee, and not in much better shape. Adoption? Not likely. But the family doesn’t want her, and no neighbors were able to keep her either. My client and I talked about it, and his wife is allergic.  This is NOT a conversation I want to have with my husband, but what am I supposed to do? Send Misty off to a certain death?  

Do I have to make that decision now, too?  Not enough that I might have to some day help my client decide about the conservatee’s end-of-life, now I have to do it for the cat, too? They didn’t tell you any of this stuff in law school.

It’s officially now 1:00 in the morning.  I’m going to go back to bed now and lie in the dark. It’s pathetic being the only one up at this time of the morning. And a little creepy, too. I didn’t know my house made all these noises in the middle of the night.  Jack doesn’t seem bothered, so I guess I’m not either.  

OK, so first thing Monday morning: call and check in with my client to let him know I’ve gotten all his e-mails and I’m on top of it; call the animal shelter; call the Minnesota probate attorney; and… darn it, there’s one more thing on that case that I need to do… what was it? Oh, that’s right, call the court investigator to see where the report is. Our final hearing is the end of the week and we need that report. I hope the investigator is on board with our plans.  

But before I make those calls, I’ve got to finish the draft of that trust amendment for my clients that I promised them a week ago.  They knew for four months when they were leaving on vacation, why did they wait until two weeks beforehand to call me? And why did I promise I’d get it done for them before they left? I need to stop doing that. 

All right, I have my to-do list in place, at least that makes me feel better.  And I have a day at home tomorrow to catch up on my laundry, grocery shopping and chores, and maybe take a little family time before throwing myself into work again on Monday morning.  I’ll do all that tomorrow when I wake up. But first, I have to go to sleep.

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