A conservatorship can be useful in situations in which an adult is no longer able to take care of themselves or manage their own finances. In a conservatorship, the conservator is the person who becomes responsible for managing the finances and personal affairs of the individual who is no longer able to do these things on their own (called the conservatee).
To establish a conservatorship, the person who wants to serve as the conservator must formally petition the court and be appointed by the judge. The conservator must specify in the petition whether they are requesting an appointment as a conservator of the person, conservator of the estate, or both.
A conservator of the person ensures that the conservatee has the food, clothing, and shelter that they need and also ensures that they are receiving medical care as needed. A conservator of the estate is responsible for managing the conservatee’s finances—such as paying bills, filing taxes, and managing their income.
Conservatorship Attorneys in California
The estate planning attorneys at Galanti and Copenhaver handle many different matters for their clients, including conservatorships. Our attorneys have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to help their clients navigate a variety of estate planning issues. If you are considering a conservatorship for a loved one, contact our office today to learn more about your legal options.
Reason #1—Your Loved One Cannot Make Important Decisions on Their Own Due to Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease
One common reason for establishing a conservatorship is to allow someone to step in and make important healthcare and financial decisions for someone who can no longer do these things themselves due to dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or similar conditions. However, suppose your loved one has an established power of attorney. In that case, the person they designated to make financial or healthcare decisions (or both) will be able to do those things without the need for a conservatorship.
If you are considering establishing a conservatorship for a loved one with a condition or illness that affects their brain and limits their decision-making ability, make sure it is the right time. When someone is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it does not automatically mean that they no longer have the legal capacity to make their own decisions.
However, once the condition or disease progresses to a certain point when they cannot safely make important decisions on their own involving their medical care, finances, or living situation, it may be time to establish a conservatorship. Whether or not the court grants one is based on the guidelines outlined in the California Probate Code. Generally, the conservatee’s doctor must fill out a court document called a Capacity Declaration stating that the conservatee is legally incapable of decision-making.
Reason #2—Your Loved One Suffered a Serious Injury or Illness
Another reason you might need to seek a conservatorship for a loved one is if they suffer a severe injury or illness and are incapacitated. For example, if your loved one was injured in a car accident and is in the hospital in a coma, they will need someone to make healthcare and financial decisions for them. If they do not have a power of attorney previously established, then a conservatorship might be necessary.
A temporary conservatorship might be the most appropriate course of action in these cases. A temporary conservatorship allows the conservator to make decisions on behalf of the conservatee as necessary. They can terminate the conservatorship when they come out of the coma or have recovered from their injuries. Typically, in these situations, either the conservatee or conservator or a friend or family member can ask the court to terminate the conservatorship.
Reason #3—There Are Serious Mental Health and Safety Concerns for Your Loved One
Conservatorships can also be established when someone becomes unable to take care of themselves or make important decisions due to deteriorating mental health. A mental illness such as schizophrenia is one that, under some circumstances, could contribute to the need for a conservatorship. Generally, these types of conservatorships are handled in probate court and use the same process as other probate conservatorships.
However, in very serious situations, a different type of conservatorship can be obtained called a Lanterman-Petris-Short Conservatorship. These conservatorships are for people who need extensive mental health treatment and who usually require restrictive living arrangements. Local government agencies typically initiate Laternman-Petris-Short Conservatorships
Establishing a Conservatorship
If you are considering asking the court to establish a conservatorship, an estate planning attorney can help. Contact the law office of Galanti and Copenhaver today at (707) 867-0787 or fill out our online contact form to get started with this process.