If you’re looking to be appointed conservator of an adult in Orange County or greater southern California, it’s important that seek the advice of a conservatorship attorney.
What is a conservatorship?
A conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for themselves or manage their own finances. There are various types of conservatorships depending on the needs of the conservatee: probate conservatorships and Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorships.
Probate conservatorships can be general or limited. General conservatorships are reserved for adults who cannot take care of themselves or their finances and limited conservatorships are reserved for adults with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves or their finances. LPS conservatorships are started by a government agency and are used to care for adults with serious mental health illnesses who need special care and usually need very restrictive living arrangements (like living in locked facilities) and require extensive mental health treatment (like very powerful drugs to control behavior).
WHAT ARE COMMON SITUATIONS WHEN A LIMITED CONSERVATORSHIP IS NEEDED?
The probate court can appoint a conservator of the person, a conservator of the estate, or both, depending on the needs of the conservatee.
Conservator of the Person
A conservator of the person is responsible for making sure that the conservatee has proper food, clothing, shelter, health care, and sometimes may need to make important medical choices for the conservatee.
Conservator of the Estate
A conservator of the person is responsible for the conservatee’s finances including paying bills and collecting the conservatee’s income. If someone is a conservator of the person and later decides to attempt to be appointed as conservator of the estate, a new petition for conservatorship is required.
Becoming conservator of the person and/or estate requires petitioning the court. If you are already a conservator of the person, you are not automatically a conservator of the estate (and vice versa). Once appointed as either conservator of the person and/or conservator of the estate, the conservator has various duties and responsibilities that the court will make clear. These duties can be found here.
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Sometimes circumstances call for a temporary conservatorship. This is when a judge appoints a temporary conservator to take care of a conservatee’s more immediate needs because they cannot wait until a general conservator is appointed (the process takes about a year).
Temporary conservatorships have a specific end date, usually 30 to 60 days from the date of appointment. These conservatorships can be of the person, of the estate, or both. The main role of the temporary conservator is to ensure the temporary care, protection, and support of the conservatee.
Do I need a conservatorship?
You may not need a conservatorship if the person who needs help can cooperate with a plan to meet his or her basic needs; has the capacity and willingness to sign a power of attorney; has only social security or welfare income and the Social Security Administration can appoint you Representative Payee; or is married.
What does a court investigator do?
The court investigator gives neutral information about the case to the judge. In order to do this, the investigator will call the proposed conservator and set up an in-home visit with them and the proposed conservatee. Sometimes, circumstances dictate more than one meeting. In addition to meeting the proposed conservator, the will also interview relatives of the proposed conservatee. Six months after appointment, the investigator will review the case and then will review the case again in another 6 months and at the end of each 12-month period after that. These reporting requirements can be increased or decreased depending on the situtation. If the court believes the best interested of the conservatee is not being upheld, it may appoint an attorney and begin the legal process again.
Generally, in appointing a conservator, the court will look to the best interests of the conservatee. If the proposed conservatee has nominated someone (and the proposed conservatee has the mental and physical ability to express a preference), the court will appoint that person as conservator unless that appointment is not in the conservatee’s best interests. For a greater understanding of theses processes, visit our Resources.
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Setting up a conservatorship can take some time (about a year in California). It can be complex and trying. Prior to asking the court to appoint a conservator, you should consider whether a conservatorship is appropriate under the circumstances. Keep in mind, the court will potentially be appointing someone to act on behalf of the conservatee in very personal and important circumstances. For this reason, the court takes very seriously the proposed appointment and the duties that follow appointment.
If you feel like a conservatorship is potentially in order, we can offer our simple process and approach, along with robust solutions that prioritize security and peace of mind. Together, we can address issues related to conservatorships and create a comprehensive strategy to ensure your'e able to achieve your goals. We will provide assistance with preparing and filing the initial petition(s), providing notice to relevant parties, working with the court investigator, appearing for and attending court hearings, and working through the conservatorship if desired.
What are some alternatives to becoming a conservator?
Assuming a conservatorship is not needed, there may be some alternatives. For medical healthcare decisions, you can look to the following as alternatives to a conservatorship: an advance health care directive; court authorization for medical treatment; informal personal care arrangements; and restraining orders to protect against harassment.
For financial decisions, you can look to the following as alternatives to a conservatorship: a power of attorney; substitute payee for public benefits; joint title on bank accounts or other property; and living trusts.
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