If a loved one is no longer able to make decisions about either their personal or financial affairs, a judge may appoint someone to care for them. When the incapacitated person is an adult, this is called a conservatorship. Guardianship refers to a similar process, but for a minor child. Like a child’s guardian, a conservator has the authority to make decisions for someone who cannot handle their own affairs.
There Are Two Types of Conservatorship in California
California law allows a judge to grant conservatorship to one or more people or organizations to care for that “conservatee”.
The judge can grant either of two types of conservatorships: Probate or Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship.
- Probate Conservatorship: The judge gives the conservator “general” or “limited” authority to run the conservatee’s affairs. A General Conservatorship requires more care than a Limited Conservatorship. Sometimes, the court will grant a Probate Conservatorship on a limited basis until it appoints a General Conservator.
- LPS Conservatorship: This usually applies in cases where someone has a severe mental disability and can’t or won’t consent to treatment. It is often provided at the request of government agencies for one year. The judge decides whether the same or another conservator is necessary for the next year.
Who Can Be Appointed Conservator?
The judge decides who can serve as a conservator based on what is in the best interests of the conservatee. Sometimes, but not often, the court appoints the individual who files the petition. Courts prefer to appoint the conservatee’s spouse or domestic partner as conservator. If they aren’t willing or qualified, the judge will look to an adult child, a parent, and then a sibling. But if those options don’t work, then the court will look to qualified family members or friends, and then public guardians.
If the court appoints you as a conservator, you are responsible for managing the conservatee’s affairs. You have decision-making authority and need to provide for their general personal and financial well-being. So you must make sure the conservatee has adequate medical care, housing, food, and transportation. You will also need to take care of their financial assets, investments, and bills.
As conservator, you will be required to submit reports regularly to the court. The reports will account for the conservatee’s personal and financial status.
What Is the Process for Setting Up a Conservatorship?
To establish a conservatorship in California, you will need the assistance of an experienced conservatorship attorney. They will help you navigate the complicated legal process, starting with filing a court petition. The petition will request that the court appoint a conservator for a named individual and explain why.
The petition will prompt a court investigator to interview the named conservatee. The purpose of the interview is to verify the facts presented in the petition. The investigator will then make a recommendation to the court as to the validity of the petition’s claims.
Next, the person proposed as conservatee and their family members are notified to attend a petition hearing. The judge will hear testimony and look at evidence to decide whether a conservator needs to be appointed.
If the judge appoints a conservator, they must go through training. During the course of the conservatorship, a court investigator will check in with the conservatee. The point of these visits is to determine whether the conservatorship needs to continue.
What Are Alternatives to Conservatorship in California?
Establishing conservatorship is often the last resort after other legal alternatives have been exhausted. Before you petition the court for conservatorship, an attorney can help you consider the options available to you, including:
- Advanced Healthcare Directives (or Living Wills). These allow a person to specify what happens when they can’t make medical decisions for themselves;
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This names someone to make decisions about a person’s care and provide instructions about the medical treatment they want; and
- Living Trusts. These provide direction on how a person’s assets are distributed after they die.
Contact a Palmdale CA Estate Planning Lawyer at Herbert Law Office Today
If your loved one can no longer make their own financial or personal decisions, or you want want to plan for your own future, a Palmdale CA conservatorship attorney can help you a conservatorship in California. Call Herbert Law Office today to discuss your options.