Have you noticed that your elderly parent is having a more difficult time completing everyday tasks? Perhaps your parent has not been paying his or her bills on time. Or maybe your parent has not been able to maintain his or her personal hygiene or cook meals for himself or herself.
It can be hard to come to the realization that your loved one needs legal help. However, there are legal options available for you both. One of these options is to ask a California court to create a legal conservatorship. Understanding the process of filing for a California conservatorship will help you and your loved one as you go through the process.
What is a Conservatorship in California?
California law recognizes conservatorships as a legal arrangement that allows responsible adults to manage the financial matters or personal care of an adult who is impaired. Individuals who are subject to a conservatorship arrangement are called conservatees. The friend, family member, or business entity that is in charge of managing a person’s care is called the conservator.
Limited Conservatorships vs. General Conservatorships
California law recognizes two types of legal conservatorships — general conservatorships and limited conservatorships. Limited conservatorships are often used when an elderly person’s physical or mental capacity has been compromised due to aging. Or, limited conservatorships might be used when a younger person has been seriously injured during an accident. Typically, those with developmental disabilities will require limited conservatorships. Individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, or epilepsy might benefit from limited conservatorships.
Limited conservatorships allow conservatees to have the maximum amount of independence and self-reliance as possible. They will still receive the amount of supervisory care that they need, however. In many of these cases, the parents of someone who needs a conservatorship will appoint a conservator for their child in their will. General conservatorships are often required for older adults or other people who are unable to take care of themselves physically or to take care of their finances.
Determine Whether You Would Like to Become a Conservator
Before you file a petition for conservatorship, you should consider whether you would like the court to ask you to act as the conservator, or you would like someone else to act as the conservator. Conservators must be eligible for conservatorship. The conservators can be a relative, a friend, or a private or public guardian. Acting as a conservator is a serious responsibility. You will be the person responsible for making sure that another person’s needs are met entirely. You will also have a duty to protect the conservatee from neglect or abuse, and help him or her integrate into society.
As the conservator, you will need to arrange for services for the daily needs of the conservatee. Depending on the level of care that the conservatee needs. If your conservatee needs a high level of help, you will need to arrange for his or her transportation, housekeeping, recreation, personal care, clothing, meals, and health care.
File a Petition for Conservatorship with a California Probate Court
One of the first steps for obtaining a conservatorship is to file a petition with the court for conservatorship. The petition for a conservatorship can be quite complex. They can also be confusing without the help of an experienced probate lawyer. After you complete the petition, you will need to file it, along with all of the supporting documents, with the local court as well as with the possible conservatee. You will need to provide all of the following information in the petition:
- Information about the conservator
- Information about the conservatee
- The immediate relatives of the conservatee
- The reasons for the conservatorship
- Why there are no other workable options other than a conservatorship
Serve the Notice of the Petition for Conservatorship
Once you have filed the petition for conservatorship, a clerk of the court will schedule a court date. A neutral adult will need to serve the notice of the petition to the proposed conservatee. They will also need to serve the relatives of the proposed conservatee with notice. The court will appoint an investigator who will speak to the proposed conservatee and others in order to collect more information about the condition of the conservatee.
Attend a Court Hearing
Next, the individual who was a proposed conservatee will need to attend a court hearing, unless the conservatee does not have the capacity to attend the hearing. The probate judge will decide whether or not all family members have been notified properly. The judge might decide to appoint a representative of the proposed conservatee. The judge will then decide to deny or grant the conservatorship.
If the judge does grant the conservatorship, the court will file an order that appoints the conservator. If the judge does grant a conservatorship, the court will issue the letters of conservatorship. If you are the person appointed to be the conservator, you will need to make sure you review the Handbook for Conservators about your new role. Once the court issues the letter of conservatorship, you will be able to assume the duties of a conservator.
Making Decisions on Behalf of a Conservatee
Conservators must act as quickly as possible to protect the interests of their conservatees. All of your decisions need to be based on the interests of the conservatee. In other words, the conservator shouldn’t make decisions for his or her own personal benefit. Interested parties can challenge the appointment of the conservator after he or she is appointed.
Contact Our Law Firm as Soon as Possible
If you are interested in becoming a conservator for your family member or a friend, the sooner you speak to an experienced lawyer, the better. At the Law Office of Daniel Hunt, we have helped many clients through a variety of conservatorship issues. Contact our Sacramento law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.