What happens when a person becomes incapacitated in California? Are there laws under the California probate code that state how such individuals can receive special care? Yes, of course! Conservatorship is the answer to anything pertaining to the incapacitation of an individual, and letters of conservatorship are an important part of that arrangement.
Personal conservators play a key role to ensure that incapacitated individuals live normally without worrying about their wellbeing or estate. Since this is such an important job, the court appoints only conservators who meet the required standards. Letters of conservatorship are a legal part of this appointment.
Eager to know more about these letters, how you can acquire them, and how you can use them as a conservator? You’ve come to the right place! This article seeks to answer everything you need to know about letters of conservatorship.
Letters of Conservatorship: What Are They?
After you are appointed conservator, you need to obtain letters of conservatorship from the court clerk. These letters serve as proof that you’ve been through a conservatorship hearing and have been appointed conservator.
Most of the letters outline what the judge has authorized you to do on behalf of the conservatee. In simple terms, they indicate your “powers” as the conservator. Thus they indicate your role as the conservator of the estate, the conservator of the person, or both. They also outline the type of conservatorship (permanent conservator vs. temporary conservator).
As a conservator, letters of conservatorship are pretty crucial. They give you the power to perform various business and non-business transactions on behalf of the incapacitated person.
Are Letters of Conservatorship Required?
Yes! For this arrangement, it’s a requirement that you provide certified copies of these letters whenever you approach persons, government agencies, a financial institution, or organizations on behalf of the conservatee. You only need to carry copies along with you since the originals remain in the court’s file.
Whenever you need the copies for conservatorship checking, you can visit the court clerk’s office. Every certified copy must have an original seal, which costs a nominal fee.
Why Should You Keep Recently Certified Copies of These Letters?
These letters serve as evidence for your authority within the stated dates, and many institutions won’t accept older permanent or temporary conservatorship forms. Whenever you submit letters of conservatorship for any use, ensure they are recent copies (usually within the last 60 days).
Why do many organizations have this policy? Concerned parties may want to prove that you are the current conservator to the incapacitated person. The court may change conservators from time to time, and many conservatorships have an expiration date.
That being said, you should only request certified copies when you need them. This helps you to avoid paying extra fees for each copy. When you exhaust the existing copies, you can always order updated ones from the court clerk.
Which Activities Call for Certified Copies of Your Letters?
As a conservator, you need certified copies of letters of conservatorship to:
- Access the conservatee’s safe deposit box and open a new one under your name
- Open a bank account on behalf of the conservatee using their social security number
- Change the postal address of the conservatee
- Make a transfer of the conservatee’s bonds, stocks, mutual funds, and bank accounts into your name
- Seek government benefits for the conservatee
- Prove to doctors and hospitals that the court has granted you the authority to oversee the conservatee’s medical treatment
- Request for information about the conservatee from government agencies, private entities, or various pension plans
- Engage in agreements like home care contracts and leases on behalf of the conservatee
- Request for a release of the conservatee’s assets from persons or agencies holding them for safekeeping
What Powers of the Conservator Are Outlined in the Letters of Conservatorship?
When you get the letters from the court clerk, you’ll see some of your legal powers listed there. As stated earlier, these powers pertain to your duties and responsibilities as a conservator to the incapacitated person.
In a broader perspective, these include your powers as 1) conservator of the person and 2) conservator of the estate. The letters also outline rules for conservatorships.
Powers of Conservator of the Person
These powers entail how you’ll manage the conservatee’s physical and psychological wellbeing. Powers of conservatorship in this scenario include the following.
Deciding Where the Conservatee Lives
One of your main duties as a conservator is to handle the conservatee’s living arrangements. To prevent negative effects, they need to live in a comfortable environment that meets their needs.
As a conservator, it’s your role to determine when and where the protected person moves or resides. At times, they may live in their own real property with medical support. If the conservatee wants to move to another state, you should oversee this.
You need to also determine whether the conservatee needs admission to a residential care facility or not. At the care facility, you may need to follow up and ensure they receive secure long-term care.
Keeping the Conservatee Healthy
As conservator, you have the medical authority to secure health insurance and consent to medical treatment for the conservatee. You need to work with doctors and pharmacists to ensure the conservatee receives the right drugs and medical care. You also have the exclusive authority and medical powers to help the conservatee acquire eyeglasses or hearing aids when appropriate.
Maintaining a Good Diet
What type of food should the conservatee eat? This is upon you to choose! You may need to arrange for meal delivery or a special diet depending on the conservatee’s condition. You also have special powers to address any problems of poor nutrition.
The letters indicate your powers in determining the right clothing for the protected individual. As the conservatee gains or loses weight, you must determine the right clothes for them. When their clothes get dirty, you must also organize for the clothing to be washed.
Scheduling Time for Recreation and Social Contact
Your powers here include organizing outings and trips for the conservatee. You can assist them in activities such as attending events, playing games, or simply enjoying their favorite music. Ensure that the conservatee also interacts with their family and friends whenever possible.
Other powers include:
- Tapping helpful resources for the conservatee
- Offering the conservatee protection from harm
- Keeping the conservatee from causing harm
Powers of Conservator of the Estate
These powers outline how you’ll handle the conservatee’s estate assets and property. They include the following.
Giving Notice of Your Appointment
After you are appointed conservator, you need to provide notice to institutions and individuals that had some form of relationship with the conservatee. This keeps them informed about the conservatee’s current situation and your statutory power. You can send your notice of appointment to various organizations, including the following.
- Banks and other financial institutions
- The conservatee’s employer
- Insurance companies, government agencies
Contracting on Behalf of the Conservatee
When you sign a contract with any party, remember to inform them that you’re doing it on behalf of the conservatee (without undue influence). Ensure that you only enter into binding contracts that add value to the conservatorship estate. Whenever you make any changes to the contract, you have to inform the court about your investment of estate property.
Taking Charge of the Conservatee’s Assets
It’s under your powers to ensure effective management of the conservatee’s assets. After locating the conservatee’s assets, ensure that you monitor property and every financial transaction. Use the assets for the benefit of the conservatee and not for personal gains. Some of the assets to manage include:
- Stocks and bonds
- Bank accounts, including interest-bearing accounts, insured accounts, and estate accounts
- Safe deposit boxes
- Charge accounts
Inventorying and Appraising the Estate
To ensure proper management of the estate, you need to conduct inventories and appraisals from time to time. You need to account for everything that the conservatee owns in records of income.
As part of this process, establish the value of the conservatee’s personal belongings as per the current market value. This helps you in estimating the net worth of the estate. You can also challenge the probate referee’s appraisal. Finally, remember to take note of any new assets, such as welfare income or pension income.
Managing and Protecting the Estate
Your powers as conservator of the estate include storing and protecting assets under the name of the conservatee. You can also prepare a budget on their behalf. With this, you need to set up and keep good records of any expenses incurred on behalf of the conservatee.
Apart from that, you also need to monitor the conservatee’s assets that are controlled by different property administrators. This includes determining the asset subject tax payment as required by the state of California. Remember to also manage their investment and retirement plans as needed.
Do You Have Questions about Letters of Conservatorship?
Conservatorship is an important safeguard for vulnerable people. It helps incapacitated persons to lead normal lives despite their physical or mental shortcomings. Whether a conservator or you are about to become one, you may have some questions about letters of conservatorship or conservatorship in general.
To clear all doubts, you can consult A People’s Choice about such issues. We will help you with any questions related to the paperwork and assist you in getting your conservatorship up and running at a very reasonable price. To get started, you can contact us here or call us directly at 800-747-2780.
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