What is it?General conservatorships (sometimes called a “probate conservatorship”) offer a court supervised procedure for providing for the management of assets and/or the personal care of a person who can no longer do so for themselves. A conservatorship of a person's estate allows the court appointed conservator to manage the conservatee's assets, and a conservatorship of the person allows the conservator to make decisions regarding the conservatee's personal health and welfare, including medical decisions if necessary. However, the conservator’s powers are limited: he or she cannot place the conservatee into a locked mental institution against his or her will, for example.
The law prefers that a family member of the individual be appointed conservator and has a list of preferences based on the relationship to the conservatee. If willing family members are deemed inappropriate or not qualified, the court can appoint non-relatives, professional conservators, private fiduciaries or the County Public Guardian.
Conservatorships are reviewed by the court after one year and every second year thereafter. The Conservator of the estate will be required to provide an accounting to the court of the income and expenses of the estate, and must seek court permission for certain transactions such as the sale or purchase of real property, or payment of fees to the conservator or attorneys. The conservator of the estate may also ask the court to establish a will or living trust for the conservatee if one does not already exist.
Establishing a ConservatorshipThe conservatorship process begins when someone, represented by his/her attorney, “petitions” the court that s/he be appointed conservator over a proposed conservatee. An attorney prepares the necessary paperwork and obtains a court date in the County Superior Court for the hearing on the conservatorship. At the hearing, the proposed conservator and proposed conservatee (if able) will be present. A medical excuse from a doctor may allow the proposed conservatee to be absent from the hearing, and in most counties it is not absolutely essential that every person wishing to act as Conservator be present.
In a conservatorship over the person, the petitioner must prove to the court that the proposed conservatee is “unable to provide properly for his/her personal needs for physical, health, food, clothing or shelter.”
In a conservatorship over the estate, the petitioner must convince the court that the proposed conservatee is “substantially unable to manage his/her own financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence.” If everything is in order, the Judge will grant the Order Appointing Conservator and Letters of Conservatorship will be issued.