What Is a Conservatorship, and How Can an Estate Planning Attorney Help?

by | May 10, 2022 | estate planning

A conservatorship allows the conservator to have the authority and responsibility to manage a person’s finances or make decisions on their behalf about health care—or even handle both. Conservatorships are helpful when a loved one becomes incapacitated and does not have a power of attorney. An estate planning attorney can help you and your family petition the court to appoint a conservator and establish a conservatorship.

California Conservatorship Attorneys

The estate planning attorneys at Galanti & Copenhaver, Inc. have many years of experience helping their clients prepare for their future with estate planning. Our attorneys can assist people seeking conservatorships and other estate planning issues involving the court system. Contact our office today to learn more about how we can help you with your estate planning needs.

What Is a Conservatorship?

Conservatorships are used to give someone the power and ability to manage the personal and financial affairs of an individual who is no longer able to do so independently. The person under the conservatorship is called a conservatee. The person appointed by the court to manage their finances, make health care decisions, or both—is called the conservator.

A conservatorship may become necessary in many cases. Some examples of situations in which a person may require a conservatorship include:

  • Suffering a severe injury resulting in a coma
  • Certain mental health emergencies
  • Advanced Alzheimer’s Disease

Before petitioning the court to have a conservator appointed for a loved one, you must first make sure that they do not already have financial power of attorney documents. If they do have designated powers of attorney for health care and finances, then the person (or persons) that they designated in these documents can simply take charge as needed.

Conservatorship of the Person and Conservatorship of the Estate

In California, the court can appoint a conservator to serve as a conservator of the person, the estate, or both. With a conservatorship of the person, the conservator ensures that the conservatee has clothing, shelter, food, and health care needs met. Depending on the situation, a conservator might also need to make medical decisions on their behalf.

A conservator appointed conservator of the estate manages the conservatee’s finances and related matters. Some of the duties included in the role of a conservator of the estate include paying bills, making and managing investments, protecting property and income, and filing taxes on behalf of the conservatee. The court typically requires the conservator to provide routine updates and reports of these financial activities.

How Long Does a Conservatorship Last?

The length of time that a conservatorship is in place varies depending on the individual circumstances of each case. In some situations, it is necessary to have a conservatorship in place for the rest of the conservatee’s life. However, temporary conservatorships are appropriate in some cases.

When an individual needs immediate help, and there is good cause shown to the court, a judge can appoint a temporary conservator of the person, estate, or both. Generally, the power of a temporary conservator is more limited than that of a permanent conservator.

The court can appoint a temporary conservator can be appointed for a specific period of time until a permanent conservator is appointed. This arrangement is needed in situations in which a permanent conservator has been removed by a judge or dies unexpectedly. The court will then appoint a temporary conservator to manage the estate or person of the conservatee until the new permanent one is appointed.

What Are the Steps to Obtaining a Conservatorship?

The first step in asking the court for a conservatorship over someone is to file a Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator. There are court filing fees associated with seeking a conservatorship, so be sure to keep that in mind as you get started.

The court will review the Petition and any associated documents to decide if an investigation is needed before the hearing on the petition takes place. If the court requires an investigation, an investigator will be assigned to the matter and will reach out to the parties.

In some cases, the court might appoint an attorney to represent the potential conservatee. This appointed attorney will prepare a report for the hearing on the matter. At the hearing, the judge will rule on the petition, and if it is granted, the proposed conservator will be appointed and will begin fulfilling their role. After a conservatorship has been granted, it is still subject to investigations by a court investigator as deemed necessary.

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