If you are concerned about a loved one who is incapable of handling their finances, then you may want to approach the court to have a conservatorship established for this person. There are many advantages to going through this process, but there are some downsides. Here's what you should know about conservatorships and what you need to do to start and maintain one.
Definition of a Conservatorship
A conservatorship is when a court officially appoints someone to look over the financial and physical affairs of an adult who is incapacitated. The court-appointed conservator makes sure that all of the conservatee's bills are paid, investments are maintained, and medical appointments are kept. They manage the cash flow and essentially run all affairs on the person's behalf.
Types of Conservatorships
In California, probate conservatorships can be broken down into two major types.
General conservatorships are those where the conservatee can't take care of themselves or are completely incapacitated. They can either be elderly or someone with severe mental or physical limitations.
Limited conservatorships are when the conservatee is developmentally disabled and needs assistance. In this case, the person will still maintain some rights and can make some decisions on their own.
There is also a type of non-probate conservatorship that is often temporary called the Lanterman-PetrisShort (LPS) conservatorship. This type is mainly focused on the ongoing care of someone with a major mental illness. It is usually given to people who are institutionalized.
Difference Between a Conservator and a Guardian
In other states, the words conservator and guardian are often used interchangeably. In California, a guardian is a term applied mostly to children while a conservator deals with incapacitated adults. Sometimes, a physical conservator can be loosely called an adult guardian because they have similar rights and duties.
Court Preferences for Assigning a Conservator
While anyone can petition for a conservator for their loved one, there is usually a hierarchy of people from which the court chooses to appoint. For example, family members, such as spouses, adult children, and parents are given more weight than a distant relative or a non-relative. There are even professional conservators. In some cases, the conservatee may have a say in who gets the job.
Expected Duties of a Conservator
If you wish to be a conservator, be prepared for a lot of time-consuming work. You must submit a large volume of paperwork to the courts on a regular basis to account for expenditures and money flow. This means that you have to take the time to go to court and keep a paper trail. You also will need an attorney to help file these documents, attend meetings, and get eyewitness accounts.
How to Establish a Conservatorship
The first step is to file a petition with the court to have a conservator appointed for an incapacitated person. A copy of the petition must be given to the conservatee, and other relatives must be notified. Then, there will be a court investigation before you can have a hearing. If the conservatorship is approved, then the conservator is appointed and appropriate paperwork and bonds will need to be filed.
Applying for a conservatorship can be a time-consuming process that involves many trips to the courthouse and extensive paperwork. You must make sure that this is the course of action you want to take before beginning the process. You should consult an attorney to help you make this decision and to work with you as you navigate the court system.
The Law Office of Leon A. Karjola can help you with this delicate issue and any other probate issues you may have. That way, you can make sure your loved ones are taken care of.