As an adult child, one of the most difficult things you may be faced with is the realization that a parent needs help making financial and/or personal decisions. You may see the signs of incapacity; however, you may not want to acknowledge them and/or you may feel uncomfortable doing so. Often, an adult child feels that stepping in an exerting control over a parent will be perceived as taking away the parent’s freedom and/or independence. What you need to remember, however, is that failing to step in and pursue conservatorship over your parent could result in injury to your parent or could lead to your parent being victimized by unscrupulous people who prey on the elderly and disabled. The first step in protecting your parent (or other older loved one) is gaining a better understanding of conservatorship in the State of California.
What Is Conservatorship in California?
Every state offers some form of conservatorship; although, it may be known as “guardianship” as well in other states. In the State of California, conservatorship is a legal arrangement that allows a competent adult or organization (the “conservator”) to seek the court’s authority to step in and take over making decisions for another adult (the “conservatee”) who can no longer make them himself/herself. There are actually different types of conservatorship in California, including:
- Conservator of the Person – as conservator of the person you will be responsible for making decisions relating to personal things such as food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare. You might, for example, decide where the conservatee lives or with which doctor the conservatee treats.
- Conservator of the Estate – as conservator of the estate you will have authority over the estate of the conservatee. As such, you might make decisions such as what bills to pay, what assets to sell, or how the conservatee’s income is to be handled.
- Limited Conservatorship – a limited conservatorship is set up for adults with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves, but who do not need the higher level of care or help given under a general conservatorship. In general, a limited conservator has less authority than a general conservator.
- Temporary Conservatorship – a temporary conservatorship may be set up when a person needs immediate help. A judge, upon finding of good cause, may appoint a temporary conservator of the person or of the estate, or both, for a specific period until a permanent conservator can be appointed.
- Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship — 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 (like living in locked facilities) and require extensive mental health treatment (like very powerful drugs to control behavior). 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.
You can be appointed conservator of the person, conservator of the estate, or both; however, because conservatorship is considered to be the most restrictive option, the court will always consider less restrictive alternatives before agreeing to a permanent conservatorship.
How Do I Become a Conservator?
If you believe that a parent (or other loved one) is in need of a conservator, you must petition for the appointment of a conservator in the appropriate probate court. Both the intended conservatee and all interested parties (close family members and spouse) are entitled to notice of your petition and may object to the appointment. The court will typically order an investigation by a court investigator to help the court determine if a conservator is needed. At a hearing, the court will listen to testimony and review reports and evidence. If the court decides a conservator is needed, the court will then decide which type(s) and decide if you are an appropriate choice for conservator. You will then be given documents from the court acknowledging your conservatorship and explaining which type(s) of conservator you are and any restrictions to your role as conservator.
For more information, please join us for one of our upcoming free seminars. If you have additional questions or concerns about conservatorship in the State of California, contact the Collins Law Firm by calling (310) 677-9787 0r Click Here reserve for a Free Estate Planning Workshop.