Contested Conservatorship in Virginia: Defending Against a Parent Claiming Financial Elder Abuse

   As parents age and many of them (naturally) need assistance, the caretaking role often falls to children. However, some elderly parents are unwilling to accept the help that everyone around them can see they need. Unfortunately for Buzz Aldrin and his family, this is the exact situation they face. In 2018, Mr. Aldrin became upset that his son and daughter asked a Florida court to become his guardians. Further, he alleged that they were taking advantage of their access to some of his finances. His family believed they were acting in his best interest to protect him from being influenced by bad actors. This dispute has resulted in a lawsuit and the family is relying on the court to settle it. This lawsuit reflects what can happen if a good plan for your elderly parent is not in place in time – an issue we address in monthly workshops at our firm.

Responsibilities with a Joint Financial Account

    The issues with the Aldrin family exemplify why any person in a joint account with his or her parent should know the responsibilities that come along with it. In Virginia, parties to a joint financial account occupy the relationship of principal and agent for one another, with each standing as a “principal” in regard his ownership interest in the joint account and as “agent” in regard to the ownership interest of the other party. However, when one party contributes all the assets to the account, the other party becomes an agent with regard to the entire account. This type of account imposes a confidential relationship and in turn a fiduciary duty on the agent. Due to this relationship, all subsequent transactions that benefit the agent with that fiduciary duty are presumed to be made as a result of undue influence, which shifts the burden to the defendant to prove the transaction was bona fide. Therefore, it is important to make sure each transaction can be justified in the case of a suit. A strong attorney will be able to advise you on the do’s and don’ts of joint accounts for loved ones.  

If You Get Sued

    When a parent is suing a child, it is an extremely emotional and possibly embarrassing affair. Having the right attorney is imperative in this situation to make sure that your name is clear and that the familial relationship is not ruined by unnecessarily contentious litigation with a possibly confused parent. The attorneys at Smith Strong are well equipped to handle situations like these and would appreciate the opportunity to represent you. Please call (804) 325-1245 or (757) 941-4298 to schedule your first meeting.

 

Editorial Assistance By: Michael Gee - Law Clerk

H. Van Smith
Trusted Virginia Family Law Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg