It happens every day: while driving on a highway, someone gets into a ghastly accident and sustains an injury. The accident impairs their cognitive and physical ability, and they can no longer oversee their estates and finances. What happens if, God forbid, this person is your spouse or relative? You may decide you need to get a Conservatorship of the Estate in California.

The term “conservatorship of the estate in California” can seem strange, however. You may never have heard of it before except when the media was buzzing about Britney Spears’ 13-year conservatorship. You don’t know what it entails, nor are you sure if your spouse qualifies. That’s why you decided to do a little research before contacting your legal advisor.2

If that sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place. Conservatorship of the estate in California is a straightforward legal process. Read on to learn what a conservatorship of the estate is in California and how you can go about qualifying for one.

What Is a Conservatorship of the Estate?

A conservatorship of the estate in California is a protective proceeding where a judge appoints a conservator over a person’s estate. Unlike personal conservators who oversee medical decisions and other healthcare decisions, a conservator of the estate oversees a conservatee’s financial affairs.

A conservatee is a disabled person who cannot handle themselves or their financial matters. This may be due to physical injuries, organic brain disorders, or other situations that affect their ability to make these decisions themselves.  If a minor needs this type of arrangement, they need a probate guardianship estate in California.

A conservatorship of the estate is a part of the general probate conservatorship. Hence, this type of conservatorship is based on California’s probate code.

There are also different scopes of this type of conservatorship. A conservator of the estate can be a limited conservator in the sense that they have limited conservator powers over the conservatorship estate. They can also help the conservatee as they develop maximum self-reliance in their residential care facility after medical treatment. On the other hand, a temporary conservator of the estate can be appointed if you need to take charge of someone’s finances immediately following an emergency while applying for a more permanent conservatorship.

What Does a Conservator of the Estate do? 

The moment a person or organization assumes the role of a conservator of the estate, they become property administrators for the conservatee, although they do not handle medical care or other types of personal special care.

More or less, a professional conservator of the estate has absolute or exclusive authority over a conservatee’s financial transactions and personal property. Their duties are to:

  • Procure a bond to guarantee that they will truthfully and thoroughly perform their duties
  • Open a conservatorship account for the conservatee’s property and separate it from personal accounts
  • Find and catalog all the conservatee’s assets
  • Be in charge of the conservatee’s financial accounting status and bank accounts in all financial institutions
  • Collect the conservatee’s annual income, manage joint accounts or community property, welfare income, and social security benefits if applicable
  • Settle the conservatee’s bills
  • Rationally invest the conservatee’s property and living trusts
  • Oversee and monitor the conservatee’s brokerage accounts and real property
  • Outline the conservatee’s needs with their budget, including altering insurance policies
  • File and keep a record of the conservatee’s inventory of assets
  • Give regular reports on the conservatorship account, including information on the conservatee’s current estate plan.

Keep in mind that whether it’s medical and personal care decisions or financial decisions, conservatorship tilts toward the conservatee’s needs rather than the conservator’s interests. The whole arrangement is to benefit the conservatee and not otherwise.

Who Can File For a Conservator of the Estate?

Conservatorship of the estate California

Like other kinds of conservators, when the conservatorship court decides to appoint a conservator, they put the conservatee’s best interest in mind. Perhaps the conservatee can still state their preferences; the court will appoint the conservatee’s choice of a conservator in most cases. However, it might take a different route if the conservatee’s preferred option isn’t best for their secure long-term care.

If the conservatee clearly can’t give informed consent to a suitable and responsible person, there is an appointment list the court prioritizes. It is as follows:

  • Spouse’s or domestic partner (if the conservatee is married)
  • Adult Child
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Suitable family friend
  • Any other person declared eligible by the court
  • A public guardian

If the parties at the top of this list of preferences decline the offer to be a conservator of the estate, they are free to suggest another reasonable person on or off the appointment list. Also, keep in mind that regardless of the scale of preference, the judge makes the final decision based solely on the conservatee’s best interest.

The Issue with Professional Conservators

Perhaps you know someone who needs an estate conservator with no suitable relations or person closest to them. In that case, you can contact a private professional fiduciary. However, they often come with a fee.

If the conservatee needs a conservator of their estate but can’t pay the fee, you can opt to use your county’s public conservator. Simply search for “public guardian or public conservator” and put your county’s name to narrow the search. Although they come with a fee, county conservators are much more affordable than private fiduciaries. Contact your county’s self-help center for more information.

How to Get a Conservatorship of the Estate in California

Conservatorship of the estate California

Now that you have gone through what a conservatorship of the estate is and what it entails, you need to know how to file for one. Here are the steps to take to gain legal authority over someone’s financial affairs.

1. File a Separate Petition For Conservatorship of the Estate

This step is the onset of the appointment of the conservator process. The petition requires:

  • Information about the proposed conservator, the intended conservatee, their relatives, and the petitioner (you.)
  • An explanation of why the conservatorship of the estate is imperative
  • An explanation of why alternatives to a conservatorship are not suitable for the conservatee.

You can file this petition with your local court during their business hours.

2. File a Supplemental Confidential Information and Conservatorship Screening Form

A supplemental confidential report form contains more information. Here, you can explain why the conservatee lacks the mental ability and physical ability to monitor and utilize their finances (e.g. drug addiction, biological brain disorders, etc.).

The conservatorship screening form shows the conservator’s relationship with the conservatee. It also covers the conservator’s backstory—any criminal records and other critical information.

3. File Notice By Citation the Conservatee And Their Relatives

According to California’s law, you must give the conservatee an actual notice of the conservatorship via a copy of the petition and notice by citation. After notifying the conservatee, California’s rules for conservatorships expect you to notify their relatives as well. You’ll need to include a copy of the petition and the conservatorship court hearing on the petition.

A party concerned with the conservatorship (conservator) can’t hand the citation to the conservatee. Hence, you need to recruit a professional, family member, or friend to help you with this step. Anyone except the petitioner can send these documents/letters of conservatorship to the people on this list.

4. The Court Investigation And Conservatorship Hearing 

After the petition has been filed, the court investigator or probate examiner is appointed to look into the conservatee. Then, the investigator reports their discovery to the judicial council court.

The court will designate a date for a hearing together with a notice of hearing. During the hearing/legal proceeding, the judge will decide if the intended conservatee requires a conservatorship or not.

5. File the Duties of Conservator Form

This form, along with the letters of conservatorship, contains all the special powers and what the conservator is expected to do for the conservatee. The intended professional conservator is expected to read the whole document. The conservator will then sign the form to prove they had received it alongside the Handbook for Conservators.

How Much Does a Conservatorship of the Estate Cost in California?

Conservatorship of the estate California

The petition for a conservator’s appointment costs $435, while a petition to oppose it is free. Check here for more info on the fees.

During a conservatorship procedure, the judge has to confirm the mental illness or physical disability of the proposed conservatee, often with the help of a licensed psychologist or medical records. This amounts to additional fees. There is an investigator fee, which is about $800 in California. There are also conservatorship attorney fees; however, you may be able to save on that.

If the proposed conservatorship of the estate is not contested, all the fees and costs should sum up to $3,000. However, if you can’t afford the filing fee, you can ask for a fee waiver from the court.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Conservatorship of the Estate in California?

A typical conservatorship of the estate often requires the interested parties to wait 60 days for the conservatorship hearing to appoint a permanent conservator. However, in the cases of emergency/urgency, the court can permit a hearing to be held in five days for a temporary conservator. Although, the conservatorship will be called “temporary conservatorship.” Nonetheless, you must know temporary conservatorship often costs more and has a lot of temporary conservatorship forms.

How A People’s Choice Can Help You File for Conservatorship of the Estate

Although the legal process for a conservatorship can be complex process, you don’t necessarily need an attorney or family law facilitator. However, it would help if you had a legal document sorting platform and a legal advisor.

A People’s Choice is a Californian legal document service provider. We don’t just assign templates for you to fill; we assist you every step of the way. A People’s Choice is a gathering of several legal professionals versed in the conservatorship process, so you are in safe, reliable hands.

Our fees are affordable, and our services are dependable. Start with a simple questionnaire, and you are on your way to helping your loved one who needs help with their financial decisions. Do it right; do it with A People’s Choice.