A conservatorship is a court proceeding to appoint a manager for the financial affairs and/or the personal care of one who is either physically or mentally unable to handle either or both. The person who cannot care for him or herself is called the conservatee. A person or organization the judge chooses to do this is known as the conservator. A conservator can be a family member, friend or professional person.
A conservatorship ends when the conservatee dies, the conservatorship estate runs out of money, or the conservatee regains the ability to handle his or her own personal/financial affairs.
There are three types of conservatorship:
- A Limited Probate Conservatorship applies when the person is developmentally disabled. In this type of conservatorship, the powers of the conservator are limited so that the disabled person may live as independently as possible.
- A General Probate Conservatorship is for adults who are unable to provide for their daily personal needs of food, shelter and clothing due to physical injury, advanced age, dementia, or other conditions rendering them incapable of caring for themselves or making them subject to undue influence.
- A Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship is a special conservatorship that is set up to provide help for persons who suffer from a mental disorder or chronic alcoholism. These people may be a danger to themselves or others. the conservator is responsible for helping to find a placement and mental health treatment for the person who is gravely disabled. An LPS conservatorship is used only when the person needs mental health treatment but cannot or will not accept it voluntarily. Because the person subject to an LPS conservatorship may be placed in a locked facility, there are special protections to ensure that the conservatee's civil rights are protected. These cases are confidential,and in most cases can only be instituted by the County Mental Health Director.
On occasion, a temporary conservatorship may be appropriate if there is an emergency that requires an immediate appointment. A petition for temporary conservatorship must be filed with or after the petition for limited or general conservatorship.
It is important to understand the court will not approve a conservatorship unless all other less restrictive alternatives have been tried and are not working—such as a power of attorney and a trust—it must be shown these have been tried but are not adequate.
When the court chooses you to be the conservator of an estate, you will:
- Manage the conservatee's finances;
- Protect the conservatee's income and property;
- Make a list of everything in the estate;
- Make a plan to make sure the conservatee's needs are met;
- Make sure the conservatee's bills are paid;
- Invest the conservatee's money;
- Make sure the conservatee gets all the benefits he or she is eligible for;
- Make sure the conservatee's taxes are filed and paid on time;
- Keep exact financial records; and
- Make regular reports of the financial accounts to the court and other interested persons.
This is a very complicated and important area of law. Peter will be glad to discuss it with you.