A conservatorship is an appointment by a judge of a person who is given the power to make decisions for and act for a person who needs help acting on their own behalf. The individual who serves in this role is called the conservator. The person they are acting for is called the conservatee. Granting a conservatorship is the last resort for a judge when all other options that are less restrictive won’t work.
There are two types of conservatorships:
Each enables a greater level of control to meet the needs of individuals who may require different levels of assistance. In either type of conservatorship, the conservator may be given authority over a person’s care, finances, or both. When a conservator is responsible for protecting and caring for a person, it is called the conservatorship of a person. When it is a financial conservatorship, it is a conservatorship of the estate. If an individual needs both, a judge may appoint two people to be in the roles separately, or one person may take on both responsibilities. This is up to the judge’s discretion regarding the circumstances of the case.
The fact that an individual needs help is not a sufficient cause to receive a conservatorship appointment. A judge can only grant a conservatorship and appoint a conservator if there is proof presented that doing so will protect and promote a person’s well-being. A conservatorship must be carefully designed to encourage the maximum amount of independence and self-reliance possible on the part of the conservatee. Drafting a conservatorship can be tricky, but with the help of a conservatorship attorney, it is possible to write the conservatorship request in a way that is less likely to raise a judge’s concerns. It’s also important to be prepared to explain to the judge why other alternatives to a conservatorship won’t work.
When a judge grants a limited conservatorship, they must first determine if the person needs a conservatorship. These are typically cases in which the conservatee has a developmental disability. If the judge does decide that the individual needs a conservatorship, the decision then must be made as to which of the seven areas of power is needed. Each of the seven must be considered separately. The judge may grant some powers and not others when presiding over a limited conservatorship case and determining which areas of power of those being requested are a necessity.
A limited conservatorship in California allows for specific powers to be granted to the conservator:
A: One of the biggest drawbacks of a conservatorship is the cost. The cost can get significantly high because of the court’s involvement in the process, as well as their involvement after the conservatorship is established. There are also ongoing costs and fees that are associated with a conservatorship. Another disadvantage of a conservatorship is the lack of privacy, as it is a matter of public record.
A: The powers of a California conservatorship are areas in which the conservator has power over the conservatee. A judge will grant or deny authority over each area separately. Some of the potential powers of authority a conservator may be granted include power over the conservatee’s social and sexual relationships, power over medical consent on behalf of the conservatee, or power over the conservatee’s education.
A: A conservatorship can provide benefits such as allowing the conservator access to medical records and the ability to communicate with doctors on the conservatee’s behalf. This is helpful when the conservatee refuses medical care. It can ensure that a loved one gets the right type of medical help when they can’t establish it for themselves.
A: A conservatorship will not override a durable power of attorney, which is different from a general power of attorney only in that it extends beyond the principal’s incapacity. A judge may or may not grant a conservatorship when there is already a power of attorney in place. The decision will depend on:
A: A conservatorship can be very expensive, and the amount of assets involved can affect the cost. The initial filing fee is around $450, depending on the county, but filing fees can be as much as $1500 or more. In addition, there is an investigation fee that is around $650.
If you need a conservatorship, whether within the process of probate of an estate or another reason, Sweeney Probate Law has extensive experience with the process. We can help you understand how a conservatorship fits into your plans for your estate or if it is an option for your needs in another capacity. Oftentimes, parents of children with a developmental disorder inquire about incorporating a conservatorship into their estate planning efforts. If you need assistance with a conservatorship, contact the probate professionals at Sweeney Probate Law and schedule a consultation today.