A probate conservatorship in California is a legal process that allows the court to appoint a responsible adult (known as the conservator) to care for another adult (known as the conservatee).  Specifically, the court selects a conservator to care for a conservatee when the court determines that the conservatee is unable to care for their well-being in their daily life. In this article, we will look at the relationship between the conservator and the conservatee through the probate conservatorship process.

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Conservatorship of the Person vs. Estate

The judge may order a probate conservatorship of the estate or conservatorship of a person.

Conservatorship of the Estate:

A probate conservatorship of the estate allows the conservator to manage the conservatee’s finances. The conservator can use the incapacitated person’s income to pay their bills and housing expenses to enable them to lead normal lives. The conservatee must also manage the conservatee’s investments, prepare and file taxes on the conservatee’s behalf, and manage the conservatee’s real estate without giving room for undue influence.

Conservatorship of the Person:

A conservatorship of the person obligates the conservator to ensure the conservatee has proper food, shelter, clothing, and health care (including access to special drugs). As a responsible person, the conservator may make health decisions for the conservatee including their physical health. Other affairs that can be managed include financial affairs, medical treatment, and personal affairs for individuals with developmental disabilities.

General vs. Limited Conservatorship

There exist different types of conservatorship. The court may either approve a limited or general conservatorship for a disabled adult or a person with mental illness. The court may order a general conservatorship when the conservatee is severely impaired (ex – traumatic brain damage) hence placed in a locked facility. On the other hand, the court may put in place limited adult protective services for a disabled person (s). The powers of a limited conservator are different from the powers of a general conservator.

The limited conservatorship may allow the conservatee to continue to care for their everyday well-being but limit their authority to make financial transactions and healthcare decisions on their behalf without the help of the conservator. On the other hand, a general conservator has exclusive authority over financial matters for the conservatee including performing social security checks and updating their medical records. This is always not the case for a limited conservator that has no medical authority over the conservatee.

Temporary vs. Permanent Conservatorship

The court may order for the conservatorship to be temporary. A judge may appoint an emergency temporary conservator for a specified period until the court approves a general conservatorship. Therefore, most conservators begin with temporary conservatorship where one has to first learn the rules for conservatorships.  Under a temporary conservatorship, the court restricts temporary conservators as to what they can or can’t do with the conservatee’s personal property or estate. More specifically, some courts require prior judicial approval before the temporary conservator can make property acquisitions, medical decisions, or other special powers.

Based on the type of conservatorship, the courts in California also grant one the mandate to appoint a private professional fiduciary as a replacement for professional conservators. Such personal conservators are tasked with making health care decisions for the conserved person including when they are placed on a residential care facility due to physical injury. Professional conservators always work to develop secure long-term care for the incapacitated person including both temporary care and special care.

It takes time to become a court-appointed conservator, and many steps are involved during conservatorship for persons with health challenges. For example, the court requires a conservator to undergo a background investigation before becoming a permanent conservator for a conservatee with mental health challenges. This move helps avoid rogue property administrators that may mismanage the conservatee’s estate property.

A qualified conservator should be a reasonable person that displays the capabilities of preventing the property from loss. In most instances, a competent conservator should be a suitable family friend (or person closest) to the conservatee. Such individuals should always help the conservatee access mental health treatment if need be. They will also be tasked with providing regular reports regarding the management of the conservatee’s estate asset (s).

A confidential report is then developed regarding each conservator’s background and personal matters. This investigation helps to determine if the proposed conservator is fit and able to carry forth the required duties such as medical care, developing estate plans, and personal care for a disabled adult. There exist those kinds of conservators who are more interested in the incapacitated person’s real property (including bank accounts and community property) instead of their wellbeing. To become a conservator, you can complete the following forms to start the proceedings for a conservatorship hearing:

  • Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator (petition for conservatorship) (JC Form #GC-310)
  • Citation for Conservatorship (JC Form #GC-320)
  • Confidential Supplemental Information (JC Form #GC-312)
  • Confidential Conservator Screening Form (JC Form #GC-314)
  • Duties of Conservator and Acknowledgment of Receipt of Handbook for Conservators (JC Form #GC-348) also known as conservatorship GC-348 duties.
  • Petition for Appointment of Temporary Conservator (requires filing temporary conservatorship forms) (JC Form #GC-111)

Keep in mind that the conservatorship forms mentioned above are not all the required forms to get a conservatorship set up or conservatorship hearing. For example, a typical conservatorship petition and companion documents may, when completed, consist of 40-60 pages and can take several days to accurately complete. This is one of the main reasons clients choose A People’s Choice –  to help them navigate and complete the very overwhelming required paperwork and evaluate the potential alternatives to conservatorship!

Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to get a probate conservatorship in California. We can help you complete and file all the probate conservatorship forms to get a California probate conservatorship.

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