What Is a Conservatorship in California?
In California, conservatorships are designed for situations where an adult can’t take care of themselves or make key financial decisions. An individual could become incapacitated due to issues like chronic illness, mental disability, or developmental disabilities. Conservatorship refers to when such an individual is put under the care of someone else. It seeks to help them manage financial affairs and key life decisions.
It’s the sole responsibility of the court to free the current conservator from their duties and appoint another legal conservator if necessary. A conservatorship may also end when the person under care dies or regains independence.
It’s important to note that conservatorship only applies to adults in California. If a child needs similar care, it’s referred to as “guardianship.” Guardianship applies to children under the age of 18 who have no one to care for them.
Conservator Selection in California
During conservatorship, the court appoints a conservator to oversee the personal and financial life of the conservatee (incapacitated individual). The laws in California outline those individuals with a higher priority of being appointed as conservators to the incapacitated individual.
Generally, the conservatee’s spouse or domestic partner will have the highest priorities of appointment as conservator. If no one close to the conservatee meets the qualifications, the judge may appoint a public or professional conservator. A private professional fiduciary would best suit this role.
Is It Possible to Fight a Conservatorship in California?
Yes, it’s very possible to fight or contest a conservatorship! Fighting a conservatorship may happen for various reasons. For the following examples, we will use a fictional elderly adult named Betty.
Say Betty has two adult children named Mary and Ralph. Mary, Betty’s conservator, wants to sell Betty’s home and enroll Betty a care facility. However, Ralph thinks it would be a better idea to retain the home and take on the responsibility of providing home-based care. Such a rift between the siblings could lead to Ralph filing a petition for conservatorship.
Ralph or Betty could fight a conservatorship if Betty regained a significant level of independence, even in Mary doesn’t agree. Let’s say, for instance, that Betty suffered a head injury but has now recovered and can make personal and medical decisions on her own. In this scenario, they could approach the court and outline the reasons why they want the conservatorship terminated. In this case, Betty must prove that she can care for herself both mentally and physically.
Abusive or Negligent Conservator
It’s the sole responsibility of the conservator to ensure that the incapacitated person leads a more meaningful life with access to better medical treatment. If Mary doesn’t act in Betty’s best interests and her actions do not depict this form of legal arrangement, Ralph might enter a conservatorship battle.
A conservatorship abuse could happen if the personal conservator:
- Steals or misuses the conservatorship estate funds
- Inflates the costs of expenses incurred on behalf of the conservatee
- Engages in self-serving services
It’s the role of the court to oversee all conservatorship disputes. However, the conservator at times may act less ethically without the court taking notice. This, therefore, calls for room to fight or contest the current conservatorship.
Limited Conservatorship Abuse
Let’s say Betty has a bad leg but is otherwise healthy and capable of making life decisions. Mary is Betty’s limited conservator and is only supposed to help her with a few tasks. A limited conservator should not violate the personal autonomy or freedom of the conservatee; this mainly concerns areas of their lives which they can manage on their own. But let’s say Mary is trying to make financial decisions for Betty and exerting undue influence on her.
A conservatee or any interested party can initiate this process when it’s established that the conservator, limited or otherwise, has misused their power. If Ralph notices that Mary is trying to take too much control, he can fight the conservatorship.
Who Can Fight a Conservatorship?
Any person of interest has the legal right to fight a conservatorship. This could range from an adult child or close family member to persons listed as designated beneficiaries in the conservatee’s estate.
The conservatee can also take action. If you’re a conservatee, you may decide to fight a conservatorship if you feel that it took place against your wishes or you think your conservator isn’t right for the job.
It’s best to contest for conservatorship in the initial stages just after the court has appointed a conservator for the vulnerable person. However, it’s also possible to fight conservatorship at its later stages. This could happen if the conservator shows some ill motives against the conservatee or doesn’t adhere to the court’s guidelines.
How to Fight a Conservatorship that Hasn’t Formed Yet
The easiest way to stop a conservatorship dispute is to prevent the conservatorship from forming in the first place. If you plan on blocking someone’s petition for conservatorship, you must follow this process.
Step 1: File Paperwork and Inform Parties
First, you have to visit the conservatorship litigation attorney to file the applicable papers with the court. You then have to inform all interested parties, including:
- The petitioning conservator
- The proposed conservatee
- The family members of the proposed conservatee
- The close friends or business partners
Step 2: Attend a Hearing
The conservatorship litigation attorney makes sure that these individuals receive their notices in time and based on the state laws. A legal hearing before the judge then takes place.
The hearing is meant to determine the competence or incompetence of the proposed conservatee. During the hearing, the judge will have to determine the efficacy of the proposed conservatee through a straightforward process.
Step 3: Obtain Results
If it’s true that the chosen person displays some level of incompetence, the judge will appoint a new conservator during the same hearing.
How to Fight a Conservatorship that Already Exists
If the judge had already appointed the conservator, you still have a viable alternative to contest the conservatorship. You can achieve this through regular public hearings pertaining to the review of the conservatorship reports.
Keep in mind that you want to be the first to table a conservator petition for the infirm or elderly person. You’ll have higher chances of succeeding if no rival conservator petition exists.
If you plan to fight a conservatorship, it’s best to use proven strategies. Here are four ways you can give yourself an advantage as you work through this legal process.
Step 1: Gather Evidence
You’re more likely to win a fight for conservatorship case if you can prove to the court that the conservator has performed some financial malice on the conservatee’s account. You can also attach evidence showing the fiduciary offenses committed by the conservator.
Step 2: Gain Support
If the conservatee wants to contest against the conservatorship, that is very helpful. The law grants the conservatee rights over their assets if they display some ability to care for themselves.
If you’re a spouse or domestic partner to the conservatee or you have the support of this person, you have a higher chance of winning the petition. Next in line for the position of conservator include adult children, siblings, or blood relatives.
Step 3: Find Expert Help
Ensure that you take every precaution so that your petition can sail through the legal process unencumbered. Working with those that have experience in contesting for a conservatorship can help. Since it’s expensive to work with a conservatorship attorney, you can seek legal document assistance services from A People’s Choice. We will get you all the documents you need to make sure that the conservatee gets relieved from the conservatorship or receives an alternate conservator.
Do You Need Help to Fight a Conservatorship?
Contesting a conservatorship always calls for due diligence and a proper understanding of California laws. You can reach out to us for help with the paperwork you need for a petition for the amendment or dissolution of a conservatorship. Through our legal document assistance service, we seek to help you conveniently and effectively handle the entire process without having to resort to hiring an expensive lawyer. To get started, contact us here or call us at 800-747-2780!