Conservatorship in California
As adults, we are expected to be responsible for our own decisions and well-being. But this just is not possible in certain cases. Whether you have a loved one whose capabilities have declined with age or a relative whose mental illness prevents them from caring for themselves, the situation is what it is.
Someone must step up and help. A conservatorship is often the best way to do so.
Our attorney Erica M. Bansmer is an understanding and effective San Joaquin County conservatorship lawyer. No matter how much assistance your loved one needs, she and our team of legal experts can help you navigate the court system and establish an official precedent for care.
What is Conservatorship and How Does It Differ from Guardianship?
In California, a conservatorship is when a judge formally appoints a person (or an entity) to care for an adult who’s unable to manage their own finances or care for themselves. The responsible person/entity is known as the “conservator,” while the person receiving care is the “conservatee.”
A guardianship, on the other hand, refers to a similar arrangement with a person/entity and a child under the age of 18. These are necessary when parents are unable to parent their child, or sometimes when a child received inheritance, an award from legal damages, etc.
Lastly, a guardianship is often more all-encompassing than conservatorship. As a guardian, a person is responsible for every aspect of the child’s care, including healthcare, food and shelter, educational needs, and more.
But a conservatorship can focus only on the person themselves or managing their estate. Working with an experienced San Joaquin County conservatorship lawyer like our attorney Erica M. Bansmer can make it easier to determine which is best for your loved one.
Conservator of the Person vs. Estate
There are several distinct types of conservatorships in the state of California. But across the board, each type involves becoming the custodian of the person’s estate, the person themselves, or both. And no matter which type you establish, the conservator must act in the best interests of your loved one.
For example, being a conservator of the estate means managing the budgeting, investing, and spending through a bank account set up for the conservatorship. As a conservator of the person, decisions relate to medical care, housing, and clothing.
If the conservatorship covers both, you (or the conservator if it is not you) handles decisions for both aspects. In all cases, it may be necessary to go against the wishes of the conservatee to protect them.
What are the Criteria for Establishing a Conservatorship in California?
There are no specific “set in stone” or “required” criteria for establishing a conservatorship in California. Part of the process of establishing the conservatorship is demonstrating the need for one. Basically, the first step is filing a petition with the court, which must include your reasons for why the arrangement is necessary and why the judge should grant it.
That said, here are the types of conservatorships in California and the general qualifications for obtaining each:
- A general conservatorship is common for elderly adults whose mental and/or physical capabilities have severely declined with old age
- A limited conservatorship is usually set up for adults with developmental disabilities (such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism, etc.) that started before the person’s 18th birthday
- An LPS conservatorship, which refers to the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1967, is established by a local government agency to oversee adults who need extensive treatment for a serious mental illness
Order of Priority in California Conservatorships
Our attorney Erica M. Bansmer is a skilled and dedicated San Joaquin County conservatorship lawyer. While every California conservatorship she’s assisted with is unique, they do have one thing in common: the court’s order of priority.
Basically, the court chooses a conservator based on this order of priority:
- The person’s spouse
- The person’s adult child
- The person’s parent
- The person’s sibling
- Any other interested person
- A public guardian
In the event that whoever has the highest priority declines to take on the conservator role, they have the right to nominate someone else. If every single qualified friend/family member declines, the court will—in most cases—appoint a public guardian or private fiduciary.
How to Know if a Conservatorship is Needed
There are many different reasons you might consider a conservatorship for your loved one. That said, here are some characteristics that can indicate a conservatorship would be beneficial:
- Person is no longer able to handle daily tasks effectively such as driving, cleaning their house, keeping themselves safe, paying bills, managing their money, grocery shopping, preparing meals, bathing, or getting dressed
- Person is also lonely, isolated, and/or withdrawn
- Person is likely to fall for fraud or theft scams, or has done so in the past
- Person has lucid (or “good”) days and “bad” days
What is the Process for Establishing a Conservatorship in San Joaquin County?
The process for establishing a conservatorship in San Joaquin County requires these steps:
- You must file a conservatorship petition with the court, which will include information on the proposed conservatee, their relatives, you, your reasons for requesting the conservatorship, and reasons why other alternatives aren’t viable.
- The proposed conservator must file a Confidential Supplemental Information Form, which addresses in detail why the conservatee can’t manage their own needs.
- The proposed conservator must file a Confidential Conservatorship Screening Form, which details their criminal background, relation to the conservatee, and other important information.
- The proposed conservator must read, sign, and file a Duties of Conservator Form, which outlines everything the conservator will do for the conservatee. They must also receive the Handbook for Conservators.
- You must serve notice on the potential conservatee by delivering a copy of the petition and citation. But these must be delivered by someone who is not a part of the conservatorship, which can be a professional or a family member.
- You must provide notice to the relatives of the conservatee (spouse, close relatives, etc.) by mailing written notice of the court hearing and a copy of the petition. These cannot be mailed by the same person who filed the conservatorship petition.
- Finally, a judge must determine and issue a bond, which protects the assets of the conservatee. A claim can be made against this bond if the conservator engages in fraud, theft, improper handling of assets, or misrepresentation. You’ll have to pay a yearly premium for the bond until the court releases it.
Get Help from a California Conservatorship Lawyer
One of the hardest parts of working with a California conservatorship lawyer is deciding when the time is right. Many people who could benefit from a conservatorship bounce between good days and bad days. This makes it very difficult to make a choice you feel confident in.
Furthermore, nobody finds it easy to accept that their parent or relative is getting older and less independent. But denying your loved one’s true needs to prolong their sense of independence isn’t the best option for their health, safety, or finances.
As an empathetic and experienced San Joaquin County conservatorship lawyer, Erica M. Bansmer is here to provide any advice, counsel, or assistance needed to establish a conservatorship for your loved one—or remove a conservator who isn’t acting in your loved one’s best interests.
Just contact our law firm at (209) 474-2400 to learn more about how we can help you through this process and establish the protections your loved one deserves.