Many different circumstances may prevent an elderly family member from managing his or her own affairs. In California, a probate court can address this issue by appointing a guardian to help guide the adult.
This guardianship, otherwise known as a "conservatorship," transfers the responsibilities of managing the adult's finances, living arrangements and medical decisions to the guardian.
Conservatorship of the person
A conservatorship of the person is ordered if an adult is unable to manage his or her own personal affairs, such as maintaining personal hygiene and medication routines. The guardian would ensure that these daily healthcare needs are met.
Conservatorship of the estate
A conservatorship of the estate is established when an adult is unable to manage his or her own financial matters, such as managing income and bill payments. If circumstances require a conservatorship of the person and the estate, one person may be appointed as the conservator for both.
Conservator with full powers
For an elderly adult suffering from an extremely debilitating issue, such as dementia, a conservator will likely be appointed full power of the elderly adult's person and estate.
Conservator with limited powers
If the adult is able to perform many tasks without supervision, as may be the case for an adult with limited mobility, the conservator may only be granted limited powers over the adult or estate.
The Lanterman, Petris and Short (LPS) act established special authorizations for conservators of adults who have a serious mental illness. A few examples of qualifying mental illnesses are schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bi-polar disorder.
The type of conservatorship granted and the degree of power allotted to the conservator may vary depending on the status of the elderly adult and the opinion of the court.
However, contacting an experienced probate lawyer may help you determine which of these adult guardianship options would best fit your circumstance. An attorney can lay out all of your options clearly and help ensure that your family member is able to receive necessary and appropriate care.