If you have a loved one in LA who needs help, you may well find yourself googling “public guardian conservatorship Los Angeles.” You’re not alone; people seeking public guardian conservatorship for their ailing or at-risk family members and friends are commonplace in LA.

To help you understand this legal process, we’ve crafted this guide to public guardian conservatorship Los Angeles. Read on to figure out which public guardian conservatorship Los Angeles arrangement is right for your loved one.

What Is Public Guardian Conservatorship in Los Angeles?

This is a complex question because the term “public guardian” and “conservatorships” have separate definitions. Let’s separate them to answer this question.

Public Guardian Conservatorship Los Angeles: What Is a Conservatorship?

A conservatorship is an arrangement meant to help persons who can’t care for themselves. These persons, known as conservatees, may suffer from a physical health disability, mental disability, undue influence, or neglect.

A conservatorship assigns a caregiver known as a conservator to make arrangements for the conservatee. Depending on the type of conservatorship, this may include:

  • Supervision of financial matters
  • Help acquire basic needs like proper food, shelter, clothing, etc.
  • Mental health treatment from mental health facilities
  • Guidance from a mental health professional
  • Medical treatment, including a medication program treatment stabilization
  • Acute care psychiatric hospital

Public Guardian Conservatorship Los Angeles: What Is a Public Guardian?

This is where things get confusing. Usually, a loved one/family member serves as the conservator for vulnerable adults. If such a person is not available, however, adult protective services may appoint a public conservator, or a professional conservator, to fill the role. In Los Angeles, such a person is called a public guardian.

Why is this confusing? Normally in California, the term “guardian” and “guardianship” are reserved for use with minors. However, a public guardian or public guardian conservator for adults seems to be the exception to this rule. So, throughout this article, when we use the term “public guardian conservatorship, Los Angeles,” keep in mind that we’re referring to a conservatorship arrangement for adults. Check out this article if you need help arranging guardianship for a minor.

When Was Public Guardian Conservatorship Established in L.A.?

In 1945, the first County office of the Public Guardian was established in Los Angeles. During its initial establishment, the office’s primary responsibility was to manage the financial matters of individuals civilly committed to psychiatric institutions. With time, the role of the L.A. Public Guardian Office broadened to also serve as conservator for persons. This meant they could address issues with estate conservatorship, making medical decisions, protecting the conservatee’s property from waste, and so on. Conservatorship could also be granted to individuals with bipolar disorder (manic depression), clinical depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder through this office.

Who Determines Whether Someone Needs Public Guardian Conservatorship in Los Angeles?

During the L.A. County conservatorship process, it’s the responsibility of the Superior Court to determine that an individual cannot care for themselves or make critical decisions hence the need for a conservatorship. However, keep in mind that most conservators are family members of the conservatee rather than professionals. A public guardian/public conservator should only be appointed if there is no one close to the person who can step into the role.

If the court appoints a county public guardian (also known as a public conservator), this person assumes the responsibility of addressing the conservatee’s personal and financial needs.

How to Acquire a Public Guardian Conservatorship in Los Angeles

Do you think your loved one may require a public guardian probate conservatorship in Los Angeles? Here’s what you should know, including how the court determines who qualifies, the application process, and more.

Public Guardian Conservatorship Los Angeles Step 1: Apply

In Los Angeles, anyone can request probate conservatorship services for disabled adults by submitting a referral to the Office of the Public Guardian. Some of the parties that may give a referral under a usual process include:

  • Local law enforcement agencies
  • Adult Protective Services (APS)
  • The Superior Court
  • Financial institutions
  • A family conservator who can no longer fill the role

These parties can easily book a referral via a phone call. Upon receiving the referral request, the office launches an initial investigation into the matter to determine the need for a professional conservator. Conservatorship only becomes applicable when the said individual cannot provide themselves with:

  • Basic food
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Healthcare (for example, access to ongoing psychiatric treatment)

It also applies when no other less restrictive care alternative to conservatorship exists.

Public Guardian Conservatorship Los Angeles Step 2: Investigation

After a short administration time period, a probate investigator is assigned and plays an important part in the public guardian or public conservator appointment process. This investigator first has to interview the candidate for conservatorship (conservatee) and prove their incapacitation. They also seek clarification from a doctor, relatives, or friends.

Public Guardian Conservatorship Los Angeles Step 3: Petition and Court Date

When the initial investigation determines a substantial reason for conservatorship assistance, the investigation team writes a report to the county council, who prepares the legal paperwork. The county council then files a petition and sets aside a court date to advocate for conservatorship of the incapacitated individual.

During this interim period, the court selects an investigator who:

  • Interviews the person seeking application for conservatorship
  • Reads the report submitted to the court during the conservatorship proceeding
  • Submits their recommendation to the judge whether agreeing or disagreeing that a conservator with respect to the person is appropriate.

If the proposed conservatee agrees to their placement under conservatorship, the Superior Court approves the decision during a court hearing. Upon approval of the probate conservatorship, the public guardian deputies manage the conservatee and their finances during the conservatorship period.

Public Guardian Conservatorship Los Angeles Step 4: Contestation

The court appoints a public defender to represent the proposed conservatee during this period of inquiry. If the conservatee contests the need for a conservatorship, the case goes into a court trial under regular legal proceedings. This could, in turn, prolong the period for the conservatee’s induction into county public guardian or public conservator conservatorship.

Understanding Types of Public Guardian Conservatorship in Los Angeles

There are many different kinds of conservatorships of adults available to help all different types of conservatees. This section should familiarize you with some of the options that can help your loved one with medical treatment, basic necessities, financial decisions, and more for the short or long term.

If you are not sure what is appropriate for the conservatee with respect to types of conservatorship, you may want to consult with mental health personnel or other health care providers. They can help you find the right choice for a dependent adult.

Probate Conservatorships and LPS Conservatorships

The public guardian administers two types of conservatorships: 1) Probate conservatorship and 2) Lanterman-Petris Short (LPS) conservatorships. These two conservatorship arrangements give very different types of legal authority over at-risk individuals. Let’s take a quick look at both.

Probate Conservatorship

public guardian conservatorship in los angeles

This is by far the most common type of public guardian conservatorship. It seeks to help with the care of individuals who are incapacitated and considered at risk. The individual in question may be put under a probate conservatorship because of conditions like:

  • Dementia
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • General inability to care for oneself or make decisions

Whether the signs of impairment include delusional conversations, careless/dangerous actions like leaving gas burners on, or inability to safely reside in a private residence, a probate conservatorship can help. The person’s treatment team can help determine if this is appropriate.

LPS Conservatorships

On the other hand, LPS conservatorship is meant for persons with serious mental illnesses that are considered “organic brain disorders.” These must be determined by psychiatric evaluation teams, making LPS conservatorship quite rare compared to probate conservatorships. Not all types of biological brain disorders or brain trauma qualify. The qualifying disorders are:

  • Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression
  • Clinical Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Schizoid-Affective Disorder

Such mental illnesses could lead to brain deterioration in the elderly conservatee, leaving them eligible for involuntary treatment.

Individuals with a mental disorder only receive an LPS conservatorship after the appropriate investigation. The court must prove that people with these illnesses are too gravely disabled to care for themselves or make any health care decisions.

According to the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, it’s the role of a licensed psychiatrist from a registered psychiatric facility in Los Angeles to submit a referral for an LPS investigation to the Office of the Public Guardian. After submitting the referral and the initial application, the office will administer a temporary LPS conservatorship (for up to 30 days) to the individual with a mental health disorder.

A public guardian can then act as a conservator to persons found with these mental issues by the court. The conservatee can get the person in treatment for stabilization. This often includes an individualized treatment plan depending on the types of LPS disease the conservatee suffers from.

Conservatorship Scope Duration

There are also different kinds of limits of conservatorship scope and duration. Here are some examples. For more information, check out our many articles on different types of conservatorships.

Public Guardian Conservatorship in Los Angeles: Scope of Powers

There are various limits to the scope of a public guardian conservatorship. For instance, a limited conservator power is applied to individuals who can partially care for themselves (limited conservatorships). A conservator for persons found totally incapacitated (for example, a conservatee with dementia that is very advanced) may need to be permanent, on the other hand.

Conservatorship of the person and conservatorship of the estate also limit exactly what parts of a person’s life a conservator has control over. For example, a conservatorship of the estate is limited to helping with financial affairs like social security, bill pay, and other aspects of estate conservatorship.

Public Guardian Conservatorship in Los Angeles: Duration of Powers

Likewise, not every public guardian conservatorship is meant to last forever. For example, if a conservatee suffers a health risk like an injury that can be cured, they may receive a temporary conservator. This type of conservatorship can be lifted when health care providers deem the person able to manage their own affairs once again.

Do You Have Any Questions about Public Guardian Conservatorship in Los Angeles?

If you have any further queries concerning public guardian conservatorship in Los Angeles, A People’s Choice is here to help out! You could have that friend, relative, or neighbor that needs specialized care from a public guardian conservator in Los Angeles following incapacitation. Our legal experts can help you with the relevant paperwork needed before seeking a public guardian conservatorship in Los Angeles. To get started, you can contact us here or call us directly at 800-747-2780.