What is a Conservator and What is Their Role?
When a family member cannot care for themselves, it may become necessary for someone else to step in to provide that care. In California, when that person is a child, a guardian will be appointed to care for the child. But when that individual is an adult who has become incapacitated, the court will appoint another individual to perform those duties. The legal process of doing this is called conservatorship.
A conservatorship can be established by the court if they have determined an adult is incapacitated and unable to manage their personal needs or financial affairs by themselves. When that happens, the court will appoint another individual called a conservator to perform those responsibilities on their behalf.
Is a Conservator the Same as a Power of Attorney?
While a power of attorney is a document granting specific authority and responsibility to another individual, it is limited in the control it grants.
A conservatorship grants a more comprehensive set of responsibilities and authorities and typically has a more long-term goal. The court directly oversees a conservatorship, and depending on the conservatee's changing conditions and needs, it can be more flexible in addressing those needs.
How is a Conservatorship Determined?
The family requesting a conservatorship must apply for a hearing with the probate court. All appropriate parties will be notified, giving them ample time to respond.
The court will need to establish if the individual in question has become incapacitated and whether there are eligible parties to act as conservator. Based on the needs of the individual and if the court determines that a conservatorship will best protect their interests, a conservator will be appointed and given specific responsibilities.
The court must choose a conservator based on legal priority, first to the spouse and then to other family members, other interested parties, and finally to a government conservator.
What are the Responsibilities of a Conservator?
There are different types of conservatorships based on the needs of the individual. Each one will offer a conservatorship of the person and a conservatorship of the estate.
For a conservatorship of the person, the court will need to determine if the person cannot care for their personal needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. If a conservator is named, that person will be responsible for the conservatee’s
- Health care
- Personal care
- Housekeeping, and
The conservator of the person will be required to report to the court regarding the conservatee’s status periodically.
For a conservatorship of the estate, the court will need to determine if the person cannot take care of their own financial needs. The conservator of the estate’s responsibilities will include:
- Taking control of all the conservatee’s assets
- Collecting income on behalf of the conservatee
- Developing a budget
- Managing, protecting, and properly investing their money
- Paying all bills
The conservator of the estate will also be required to report to the court periodically.
Are There Alternatives to a Conservatorship in California?
If the individual is not totally incapacitated, there may be other legal options to a conservatorship. In some cases, a Power of Attorney or Advanced Health Care Directive may be all that is needed to protect some individuals.
If you have questions about whether a conservatorship is right for your loved one’s situation, getting the skilled legal advice of an Orange County, CA estate attorney is recommended. At the Law Offices of Roshni T. Desai, we would be happy to answer any questions you may have about conservatorship in California. Call us at (714) 694-1200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.