A conservatorship in California is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (“conservator”) to care for another adult (“conservatee”) who is unable to care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances.
Types of Conservatorships
There are various types of conservatorships depending on the needs of the conservatee:
1. Probate Conservatorships
These conservatorships are based on the laws in the California Probate Code. They are the most common type of conservatorship. Probate conservatorships can be:
General Conservatorships – conservatorships of adults who are unable to take care of themselves or their finances. These conservatees are often elderly people, but can also be younger people who have been seriously impaired, like in a car accident.
Limited Conservatorships – conservatorships of adults with developmental disabilities who are unable to fully care for themselves or their finances.
In an emergency, the court may appoint a temporary conservator until a general conservator is appointed.
2. Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorships
LPS conservatorships are used to care for adults with serious mental health illnesses who need special care. These conservatorships are used for people who usually need very restrictive living arrangements and require extensive mental health treatment.
Conservatees in LPS conservatorships cannot or will not agree to the special living arrangements or treatment on their own. LPS conservatorships must be started by a local government agency.
Types of Probate Conservators
The probate court can appoint a conservator of the person, a conservator of the estate, or both, depending on the needs of the conservatee.
A conservator of the person cares for and protects a person when the judge decides that the person cannot do it.
A conservator of the estate handles the conservatee’s financial matters, if the judge decides the conservatee cannot do it.
Filing of the petition and Hearing
The petitioner files the petition with the court clerk. He/she must pay the filing fee, and a court investigator fee. A court date will be scheduled by the clerk.
The proposed conservatee must attend the hearing unless he/she is excused because of illness.
At the hearing, a judge will determine if everyone has been properly notified and if a lawyer needs to be appointed to represent the proposed conservatee. Once the judge is ready to make a decision, he/she may grant or deny the conservatorship. If the judge grants the petition, an order appointing the conservator will be filed and Letters of Conservatorship will be issued. If there is an estate, a surety bond must be filed unless the court orders the conservatee’s bank accounts to be frozen.
If the conservatorship is granted
The conservator will then assume the powers authorized under the law. Each conservator will have the ongoing duty to report to the court for regular reviews and to meet with the court investigator.
Temporary conservatorships have a specific end date. A temporary conservator is usually appointed for a fixed time period, usually 30 to 60 days. 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. And the temporary conservator of the estate protects the conservatee’s finances and property from any loss or damage until a general conservator can take over the management of the estate.
Ending a Conservatorship
A conservatorship is usually a permanent arrangement. But, in certain cases, a conservatorship may be ended or the conservator may be changed.
In California, people with developmental disabilities have a right to services they need to live independent, productive, normal lives. The state must provide services for each person with a developmental disability at each stage of his or her life, regardless of age or the degree of the disability. These state services are provided through the regional centers, which are nonprofit corporations that have contracts with the California Department of Developmental Services to serve people with developmental disabilities.
The services provided through Regional Centers are available to persons with developmentally disabilities whether they are under a general conservatorship, a limited conservatorship, or no conservatorship at all.
A limited conservatorship is a court case where a judge gives a responsible person (“limited conservator”) certain rights to care for another adult who has a developmental disability (“limited conservatee”)
As with general conservatorships, there are two kinds of limited conservatorships:
A limited conservatorship of the person is a court arrangement where a conservator cares for and protects a developmentally disabled adult and provides for the conservatee’s needs associated with daily life.
A limited conservatorship of the estate is a court arrangement where a conservator handles the conservatee’s financial matters – like paying bills and collecting the conservatee’s income if the conservatee has an estate.