When a person has a mental disability, often they cannot take care of their own basic needs. Once they reach adulthood, you may discover you require a special type of conservatorship for mentally disabled individuals. In California, there is a specific process you must follow so the court may appoint a conservator for adults with mental disabilities. There are many reasons this becomes necessary. Read on to learn more about conservatorship for mentally disabled in California.
Reasons for Conservatorship for Mentally Disabled
There are many reasons someone may seek a conservatorship. Conservatorship for mentally disabled individuals, however, is unique. Adults with severe psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia, manic depression, clinical depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, may all benefit from this type of conservatorship. On the other hand, LPS conservatorships (conservatorships for mentally disabled) are not for people with autism, retardation, organic brain disorders, dementia, brain trauma, or alcohol or drug addiction, unless they also have one of the serious brain disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM.)
Lanterman Petris Short (LPS) conservatorships specifically serve those with mental disabilities. Courts appoint LPS conservators to help these individuals make decisions that affect their well being. For example, an LPS conservator might make financial decisions or sign documents on behalf of the disabled individual. In some cases, an LPS conservator will authorize medical treatments. However, they cannot force the individual in their care to take medicine.
Only a mental health professional treating
the potential conservatee may initiate an LPS conservatorship.
The Preliminary Process
Unfortunately, to get a conservatorship fo mentallly disabled individuals, it isn’t up to you to decide if the person is mentally ill. You must take the mentally ill person to a psychiatrist that is authorized to do LPS evaluations. After an assessment, the psychiatrist must confirm that the person is gravely mentally disabled and would be a candidate for a conservatorship for mentally disabled individuals. At that point, the psychiatrist must make a referral to the county’s Office of the Public Guardian
Remember, only a mental health professional treating the potential conservatee may initiate an LPS conservatorship. More specifically, an LPS conservatorship can only be started by a psychiatrist while a patient is in an acute psychiatric hospital. In this regard, you may find these sample referral packets helpful.
So what if the person for whom you are seeking a conservatorship refuses to be evaluated? Most counties have a Mental Health Department you can contact to help you with an involuntary evaluation. After they do so, many things happen to protect the patient’s interests. The term, “conservatee” refers to the person who will be in conservatorship. The conservator is the person who will help the mentally disabled person find care. This is a big responsibility, so you must be highly trustworthy. The Office of Public Conservator has the job of making sure you are a good fit for the position.
Before a conservatorship hearing, the Office of Public Conservator will conduct an investigation. During the investigation, the court appoints a temporary conservatorship that lasts only 30 days. Also, the court will appoint an attorney to represent the patient.
The Public Conservator investigates every angle of the case, including finances, medical conditions, work, and family situations. They will explore all possible alternatives to conservatorship. After the investigation is complete, the Public Conservator makes recommendations concerning who should be the conservator and what specific powers they should hold. The Public Conservator will only recommend conservatorship for mentally disabled if the investigator finds beyond a reasonable doubt the patient cannot take care of their basic needs due to “grave mental disability.”
Keep in mind, this process is often frustrating and emotional for both the potential conservator and the conservatee.
The Conservatorship Hearing
Once the investigator makes their recommendations, the case goes before a judge. That judge decides whether to establish a general conservatorship for mental disability. During the hearing, the patient may object. However, if the judge decides a conservatorship serves the interests of the conservatee, they will establish a general LPS conservatorship for one year. The court will continue to supervise you and review it annually.
If a conservatee responds to treatment and improves, they may petition to end the conservatorship. If you wish to retain conservatorship, you should prepare a petition to renew it two or three months before the current conservatorship expires. This process is not complicated, but you must file the right forms and paperwork. A People’s Choice can help you with this process.
Other Options and Scenarios
Often, people find conservatorship for mental disability confusing because there are many types. For example, the LPS conservatorship does not apply for cases of dementia, traumatic brain injury, or developmental disability. A People’s Choice can help you obtain these types of conservatorships, but the process and kind of conservatorship are different.
For example, you use a similar process for obtaining limited conservatorship for people with severe autism or IQ less than 70. However, the potential conservator initiates that process rather than a mental health professional. In these cases, you must file a petition with the court. Next, the conservator must serve copies of the petition to the conservatee and their close relatives, such as parents, spouse, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren.
Then, the court investigates to determine the necessity of the conservatorship. You may need to provide Letters of Capacity from a physician to make your case. Limited conservatorships for developmentally disabled individuals last a lifetime, so the courts are cautious when evaluating all angles of the case. The court may only terminate these conservatorships because they do not expire.
How to File for Conservatorship for Mentally Disabled
If you need to file an LPS Conservatorship you will need to reach out to the mental health professional treating the proposed conservatorship. For any other type of conservatorship, such as a limited conservatorship or standard conservatorship, please contact A People’s Choice. If you have price shopped with attorneys, you probably learned fees could run between $10,000 or more for a conservatorship. These fees often make it impossible for people to seek a conservatorship.
Doing it yourself is another option, but you will probably find the paperwork extremely difficult and confusing. If you don’t know what you are doing, the process can be overwhelming taxing; and making a mistake can prolong the process. Going back to rectify errors may have emotional costs as well as financial ones. A People’s Choice can help you through the process, from filing the right documents to understanding the process and steps. Our fees are a fraction of what an attorney charges. Give us a call at 800-747-2780 to find out how we can help you. We have staff available Monday through Sunday from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm.
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