If you have an elderly family member, you may be concerned about his ability to care for himself as he gets older. California law allows an adult to apply or be appointed to take care of another adult who cannot care for himself through a legal process called conservatorship. The person taking care of the other person is called the conservator, while the adult being cared for is called the conservatee.
Types of Conservatorships in California
There are multiple kinds of conservatorship depending on the needs of the conservatee. There are:
1. Probate conservatorships – which include general conservatorships and limited conservatorships.
General conservatorships in California are generally sought for elderly adults or others who cannot take care of themselves or their finances. Limited conservatorships in California are sought for adults with developmental disabilities that keep them from taking care of themselves or their finances.
2. Laterman-Petris-Short conservatorships – which apply to people with serious mental health issues, apply to the court and cannot be initiated by a private individual, and must be sought through local government agencies.
Types of Conservators
There are two types of probate conservators: conservator over the person, and conservator over the estate. The conservator over the person takes care of the personal day-to-day needs of the conservatee, while the conservator of the estate handles financial matters on behalf of the conservatee. If you want to be a conservator over both the person and the estate, you should apply specifically for this.
Who Can Apply To Be A Conservator?
A conservatee can always nominate someone to be a conservator, if the conservatee is mentally capable of doing so. The conservatee can even apply to be conservator over himself. Otherwise, the following people are allowed to apply for conservatorship over the conservatee:
- The proposed conservatee’s spouse or domestic partner, relatives, or friends;
- Local or state entity; or
- Any interested third person.
The court determines who to appoint as conservator based on the proposed conservatee’s best interest, but may sometimes follow a preference, for example, by appointing a spouse before a friend.
Applying To The Court For Conservatorship
To apply to the court for conservatorship, you have to file several forms with the court, including a petition in which you have to explain to the court why conservatorship is necessary and that there are no other options that can help. Filing Conservatorships in California can be very complicated and tricky. For help in filling out the forms necessary for the application, contact A People’s Choice, for low-cost non-attorney, self-help assistance.
When filing the forms with the court clerk, you will need to pay an investigator’s fee as well as the filing fee. After the investigator completes the investigation to get an idea of the proposed conservatee’s condition, the investigation expenses are passed on to the proposed conservatee, unless it would be too much of a hardship. The investigator is supposed to give neutral information to the judge about the case, and stays involved even after the conservatorship is granted; making periodic checks to make sure the conservator is doing his or her job.
You will have to tell the proposed conservatee and his or her relatives that you have filed a petition to apply for conservatorship. This is done by personally delivering a copy of the petition to the proposed conservatee, and mailing a copy to his spouse or other relatives. You must tell them of any future hearings by mailing a notice of the hearing. After the hearing, the judge grants or denies the petition for conservatorship. If granted, the conservator will have to give the court ongoing reports, as well as meet with the court investigator as the court orders.