michael-scott-2Do you have a friend or relative who just throws money away by spending every penny or running up credit cards and debt on unnecessary things?  All of know people who do that to some extent.  What if a relative is personal friends with a Nigerian Prince and sends him money on occasion?  What if that relative met a great man or woman online, they build a relationship, and that person just needs a little financial help in traveling to America to meet the family?  I recently saw a commercial for a Dr. Phil show that featured a woman who sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Nigerian “husband” she thought she had married (and I found the link here).  Other than writing Dr. Phil to see if you can get on his show, is there anything you can do to prevent a relative from throwing money away? 

In the overwhelming majority of cases, the answer is no.  Adults of “sound mind” are generally free to make their own poor decisions and act irresponsibly with money.  They are free to fall for scams that many of us believe are obvious, and free (hopefully) to learn lessons along the way.  Yes, often it is family members who are harmed when the money thrown away would otherwise have gone to necessities for the family.  The best thing friends or family can do is try to speak with the person, review the facts and maybe provide some information from outside sources to show that their actions are misguided.  If that does not work, counseling may be a good option.  However, there may be a point when the conduct crosses a line and it is necessary to intervene from a legal standpoint.  That usually means a conservatorship in Georgia.

A court may appoint a conservator over a person when that person is, in general, no longer capable of making reasonable and rational decisions concerning his or her person, or in the management of their finances.  This is a very serious step, and it is not taken merely because someone makes poor decisions, wastes money, or falls for a scam.  Typically, it means there is a larger problem such as dementia or Alzheimers, or other mental or physical incapacity.  The person taking on the position of conservator is also held to a high standard of conduct and must account for all financial decisions.  While they are allowed to use their own discretion in making decisions, they will be personally liable for any misconduct or wasting of the assets.

This post is just a very brief introduction to the topic.  If you do have a friend or family member you are truly concerned about, take steps to help them.  Do not mock them or make fun of them, or talk down to them.  They may thank you later.