Conservatorships

Sometimes, a person is unable to make personal decisions (including decisions regarding medical care and living arrangements) or financial decisions for themselves.  If that person is an adult, and he or she has not executed a living trust and/or health and financial powers of attorney, a conservator may be appointed to make these decisions.  If that person is under eighteen, a guardian may be appointed.

There are three types of conservatorships:  probate conservatorships, limited conservatorships, and LPS conservatorships.

Probate Conservatorships

A probate conservatorship is brought on behalf of an adult who is unable to make personal and/or financial decisions for himself or herself.  A probate conservatorship is often necessary in the event of a stroke, coma, or if a person suffers from dementia.  The conservator may be given the authority to make personal decisions, financial decisions, or both.  A conservator may not place a conservatee in a locked or secured perimeter facility nor authorize the administration of psychotropic medications unless the conservatee suffers from dementia and after the court has held a hearing regarding these issues.

If a conservator is given the authority to make financial decisions, the conservator will need to prepare and file an inventory with the court, will need to post a bond, and will need to prepare an accounting showing how the conservatee’s assets have been spent, one year after appointment as conservator and every two years thereafter.

Limited Conservatorships

A limited conservatorship is for developmentally disabled adults who were diagnosed with their developmental disability prior to turning eighteen.  The limited conservator will be able to make personal and financial decisions for the limited conservatee, but only in those areas they ask the court to grant them power in.

Typically, a limited conservator will be able to make medical decisions for the limited conservatee, determine where the limited conservatee will live, access the limited conservatee’s confidential records, make educational and vocational decisions for the limited conservatee, and contract on behalf of the limited conservatee.  Other powers may be asked for and will be granted at the court’s discretion.  A limited conservatorship may also be used as a vehicle to create a special needs trust to shelter money or other assets the limited conservatee may have received, such as an inheritance.  The special needs trust will allow the limited conservatee to continue receiving SSI, Medi-Cal, and other needs-based public benefits.

LPS Conservatorships

An LPS conservatorship is brought by the county in order for the Public Guardian (a county agency) to make medical, personal, and financial decisions for a person who is considered gravely disabled due to either chronic alcoholism or mental illness.  Once the process has been started, usually through the County Counsel on behalf of the Public Guardian, a concerned individual, usually a relative, may petition the court to be appointed the LPS conservator, acting in place of the Public Guardian.  If the court agrees, that individual will then be in charge of making medical, personal, and financial decisions for the conservatee.  An LPS conservatorship must be renewed every year.