A conservatorship is a type of legal proceeding where a judge appoints a responsible person or entity (the conservator) to manage the affairs and care for another adult (the conservatee) who is incapable of providing for their own basic needs or managing their own finances. Conservatorships are established for impaired adults, usually older or disabled individuals.
What’s the Difference Between Conservatorship & Guardianship?
A guardianship is an entirely different concept than a conservatorship. In California, a guardian is appointed to represent and manage the affairs of a minor child, while a conservator is appointed to care for needs of an incapacitated adult. Conservatorships generally involve health care and estate matters. Guardianships are usually established when both parents are unable to provide a minor child with a safe and secure home due to death, mental disability, or other circumstances.
Who Qualifies for Conservatorship in California?
Adults who cannot take care of themselves or their finances, usually elderly individuals, qualify for conservatorship in California. Adults with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves or their finances are also eligible for a conservatorship.
Who Can Be a Conservator?
Courts generally appoint a family member or close friend to serve as the conservator of a disabled or incapacitated adult. If there is no family or close friends who are willing to act as conservator, then a private professional conservator or public guardian can be appointed by the court.
The process to obtain a conservatorship can be initiated by any of the following parties:
- The Proposed Conservator
- The Proposed Conservatee
- The Spouse, Domestic Partner, a Relative, or Friend of the Proposed Conservatee
- Another Interested Person
- An Interested State or Local Agency, Employee of the Agency, or Public Officer
What Are the Two Types of Conservatorships?
There are two types of conservatorships that are generally used in California: probate conservatorships and Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorships.
Probate conservatorships fall into two categories:
- General Probate Conservatorship: This type of conservatorship is for adults who cannot take care of themselves or their finances. Although these are usually for elderly people, they can also be used for younger people who are seriously impaired due to accident injuries.
- Limited Conservatorship: This type of conservatorship is for adults with developmental disabilities that prevent them from fully caring for themselves or their finances. These people don’t need the higher level of care or assistance that conservatees in general conservatorships require.
LPS conservatorships are used to care for adults who have serious mental health illnesses and require specialized care. LPS conservatorships are used for individuals who need very restrictive living arrangements, such as living in a locked facilities, and require extensive mental health treatment to control their behavior.
How to Obtain a Conservatorship
To start the process, you must complete and file all of the necessary paperwork with the court. On the petition, you must include information about the proposed conservator and conservatee, relatives, yourself, and the reasons why a conservatorship is necessary. The petition must also explain why the possible alternatives to a conservatorship are not feasible in this case
The petitioner must file the petition with the court clerk and pay the filing fee and court investigator fee. A court date will be scheduled by the clerk. Low-income petitioners can request a fee waiver from the court.
After the petition has been filed, the petitioner must have another party personally deliver a citation and a copy of the petition to the proposed conservatee. The petitioner must also have another party mail a written notice of the court hearing on the conservatorship petition, along with a copy of the petition, to the conservatee’s spouse/domestic partner and close relatives.
A court investigator will interview the proposed conservatee and others who are familiar with the conservatee’s condition. The court will assess the conservatee’s estate for the cost of the investigation unless it decides the assessment would be a financial hardship for the conservatee.
The proposed conservatee must attend the hearing unless they have an excusable illness. The judge will determine if everyone involved in the conservatorship has been properly notified and whether a lawyer needs to be appointed to represent the proposed conservatee.
When the judge is ready to make a decision, they will either grant or deny the conservatorship. If the petition is granted, an order appointing the conservator will be filed and Letters of Conservatorship will be issued. If there is an estate for the conservatee, then a surety bond must be filed, unless the court orders the conservatee’s bank accounts to be frozen.
If the judge grants the conservatorship, then the individual named conservator is required to obtain a copy of the Handbook for Conservators. Once they have the handbook, the conservator can then assume the powers authorized to them under the law. Additionally, the conservator of the person, conservator of the estate, and limited conservator of the estate must attend court-offered trainings and report to the court for regular reviews and to meet with the court investigator.
Please Consult with Our Experienced Conservatorship Attorneys Today
If you need assistance with a matter regarding conservatorships, such as establishing or contesting a conservatorship, then please reach out to our knowledgeable legal team at the Law Office of Mitchell A. Port. We proudly offer the comprehensive probate litigation and conservatorship services you need to pursue your legal goals. Our award-winning law firm has more than 35 years of insightful legal experience that we can put to work for you. When you need help with conservatorships in California, get in touch with our lawyers.