Conservatorships in California
What Is a Conservatorship?
Conservatorships are available to families seeking a way to care for a loved one who is unable to handle their affairs without assistance and can be established regardless of the individual’s age. Our firm works with families seeking guidance for establishing a conservatorship to help their loved ones, from their children to their aging parents.
In California, a conservatorship is established as a last resort by a judge who appoints a person or organization to serve as the conservator for the individual, known as the conservatee. There are several types of conservatorships, each with different components meant to meet the needs of each unique conservatee.
As you consider this next step, it’s important to consider the needs your loved one faces, and which approach is best for your family. An experienced attorney will be able to assess your situation and determine whether a conservatorship is right for you.
Lantern-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorships
LPS conservatorships are for those conservatees who cannot or will not agree to special living arrangements or treatments on their own. LPS is best for people with serious mental health illnesses who need special care, such as very restrictive living arrangements and extensive mental health treatment.
In these cases, the conservatorship will need to be initiated by a local government agency. Therefore, if you believe this is the best type of conservatorship for your loved one, you will need to contact your local county Public Guardian or Public Conservator. The information provided below does not apply to LPS Conservatorships.
Probate conservatorships are the most common types of conservatorship and are created based on the laws in the California Probate Code. These conservatorships can be created as either general or limited.
A general conservatorship is best for someone who cannot care for themselves or their finances. A limited conservatorship is best for a person with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves or their finances, however, they do not require a high level of care or help.
A court can appoint a conservator of the person, the estate, or both. A conservator of the person is not automatically appointed as the conservator of the estate as well. If a potential conservator is seeking to be a conservator of both, the individual must petition the court for approval to serve as a conservator of both the person and the estate. Or, a current conservator of the person can petition the court to become the conservator of the estate.
Once you and your attorney determine the best conservatorship for your family, you can begin the process by filing all of the required documents with the court. Then, if a judge grants the requested conservatorship, the arrangement can begin.
Responsibilities of a Conservator
Once appointed, the conservator must attend the training offered by the court, meet their ongoing duty to report to the court for regular reviews, and have meetings with the court investigator who will give neutral information about the case to the judge. In certain cases, the court will require the conservator to obtain approval before making a major decision for the conservatee.
If the investigator thinks the conservator is acting in the best interest of the conservatee – and the court agrees – the court can reduce the required reviews. However, if the investigator believes there may be an issue after a review, they can ask the judge to appoint an attorney to represent the conservatee and may begin the legal process to remove the conservator.
A court can also restrict the responsibilities of a limited conservator’s duties. Since some disabled people have the ability to do many things on their own, a judge will only give the limited conservator power to do things the limited conservatee cannot do without help. For example, a limited conservator’s duties may include:
- Deciding where the limited conservatee will live (NOT in a locked facility)
- Signing a contract for the limited conservatee
- Giving or withholding consent for most medical treatment for the limited conservatee (NOT sterilization and certain other procedures)
- Giving or withholding consent to the limited conservatee’s marriage or domestic partnership
- Managing the limited conservatee’s financial affairs (for a limited conservator of the estate)
Further, because a limited conservator’s responsibility is to help the limited conservatee develop maximum self-reliance, the limited conservator is also required to secure treatments, services, and opportunities that directly benefit the limited conservatee’s growth. These can include:
- Training or education
- Medical and psychological services
- Social opportunities
- Vocational opportunities
General Duties of a
Conservator of the Person
- Arrange for the conservatee’s care and protection.
- Decide where the conservatee will live.
- Make arrangements for the conservatee’s:
- Health care
- Get approval from the court for certain decisions about the conservatee’s health care or living arrangements.
- Report to the court on the conservatee’s current status.
General Duties of a
Conservator of the Estate
- Manage the conservatee’s finances
- Locate and take control of all assets
- Collect the conservatee’s income
- Make a budget to show what the conservatee can afford
- Pay the conservatee’s bills
- Responsibly invest the conservatee’s money
- Protect the conservatee’s assets
- Account to the court and to the conservatee for the management of the conservatee’s assets
If someone you love is likely to need a conservatorship in the near future, we are ready to guide you through your options so you can be prepared and ready when the day comes. Contact us or use the form below to arrange a consultation with an experienced attorney today.