Why You Need a Conservatorship: Critical Factors


Parents, guardians or relatives of adults who are unable to care for themselves face an array of challenges in order to meet the unique circumstances of providing for their loved one. In California, conservatorships are a method to provide for the needs of adults who are unable to care for themselves.

What are Conservatorships?

Conservatorships are complex legal arrangements in which a judge appoints an individual or organization to care for another adult (known as a conservator) who is deemed unfit to care for themselves or to manage their own finances. Conservatorships are generally established for individuals with developmental disabilities, and elderly adults with dementia or Alzheimer's disease who lack the capacity to properly care for themselves.

What Options are Available?

There are two types of conservatorships - limited and general. In both types, the conservator is usually a family member or a private professional fiduciary. Here are the basic differences and when each is typically applicable:

  • A limited conservatorship is typically reserved for adults with developmental disabilities. They are established for someone who needs the assistance of another party to handle their finances and other affairs (e.g., unable to provide for his or her personal needs, such as shopping for groceries, bathing, or dressing; and unable to provide for his or her financial needs, including paying bills and expenses, or maintaining investments). The limited conservatee is the individual who is 18 and has a mental or physical disability, which may include:
    • Autism Spectrum Disorder (autistic disorder, formerly Asperger's syndrome)
    • Intellectual Disability (e.g., Down's Syndrome)
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Epilepsy
    • Cerebral Palsy
  • A general conservatorship is often used for aging adults who are unable to provide for their personal needs due to physical injury, dementia or other reasons, rendering them incapable of caring for themselves or making them subject to undue influence. The conservatee is the person who requires facilitation or maintenance. There are two types of general conservatorships:
    • Conservator of the person: A conservator of the person assists the conservatee's daily needs, including personal care, healthcare, meals, transportation, housekeeping, clothing, and recreation.
    • Conservator of the estate: A conservator of the estate manages and maintains the conservatee's finances, including contracting, protecting conservatee's assets, buying/selling property, collecting income, paying bills, and investing.

(Note: In California, "guardianship" refers only to the court appointment of an individual with the legal authority to represent and manage the affairs of a minor child.

What are the Responsibilities of the Conservator?

As you consider a conservatorship, you'll likely want to know more about the potential responsibilities you will be taking on as conservator. In a general conservatorship, responsibilities may include:

  • Where the conservatee will live
  • Where/when the conservatee may receive medical treatment
  • Providing for daily needs, including food, hygiene, transportation, education, etc.

In a limited conservatorship, depending on the situation and needs of the conservatee, it may include one of the following powers under the Probate Code:

  • Residence selection
  • Medical consent
  • Contracts
  • Education
  • Management of social relationships
  • Maintenance of confidential documents
  • Marital decisions

Expertise in Conservatorships

Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC understands these special situations. We offer unparalleled service and are dedicated to providing each of our clients with the personal attention they need to successfully handle their legal matters. Please contact Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC at (714) 384-6053 or use our online contact form. Our website is http://www.ocestateplanning.net.

Weily Yang

About the author:
Weily Yang is an attorney at Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC, an estate planning and probate law corporation in Irvine. Weily is a zealous advocate for individuals with special needs. His primary focus is special needs trusts and probate conservatorships together with estate planning, trust administration, and probate. He can be reached at weily@ocestateplanning.net.

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