It’s not always easy to determine exactly when someone is no longer capable of looking after their physical or financial needs. All too often, by the time it’s evident that a person needs help, they have gone without care and support for far too long. Fortunately, in California, a concerned loved one can ask the court to appoint a conservator before the situation becomes dire. If someone in your life is struggling with their personal care or decision-making, you will want to know: How do I start (begin) a conservatorship?
What is a Conservatorship?
A conservatorship is a legal relationship where an adult is appointed to make decisions for another adult. The decision-maker is called the conservator, and the other person is the conservatee. In California, adults are presumed to be competent to make their own decisions. However, if someone has reason to believe that another adult is having difficulty taking care of their physical needs or finances, they can file for a conservatorship with a California probate court. California law is designed to protect individual autonomy. Therefore, someone seeking a conservatorship will have to provide persuasive evidence to support limiting another person’s decision-making authority.
There are two types of California Conservatorships—A Conservatorship of the Person and a Conservatorship of the Estate.
- Conservatorship of the Person
- This type of California conservatorship is requested when there are concerns about someone’s physical health and well-being. A conservator of the person will be appointed to make decisions about the person’s medical care and where they live. This person will also be responsible for making sure the individual has adequate clothing and food.
- Conservatorship of the Estate
- A conservatorship of the estate is requested when an individual needs someone to be appointed to make decisions about their finances. The conservator of the estate may be responsible for accepting income, paying bills, managing investments, and safeguarding the assets of someone who can no longer attend to their financial responsibilities.
How to Begin a California Conservatorship
- The first step with a California conservatorship is to file a Petition for Conservatorship with the probate court in the county where the proposed conservatee resides. This process will involve gathering information about the proposed conservatee, their immediate family members, and the reasons for the conservatorship. The petition will have to explain why a conservatorship is necessary rather than using a less restrictive alternative.
- Once the petition has been filed, the case will be set for a hearing. The proposed conservatee and his or her immediate relatives must be served with the petition and notice of the hearing date. The probate court will assign an investigator to gather information about the conservatee and to interview the individual.
- On the hearing date, the court will determine if the conservatee and his relatives were properly notified. Prior to the hearing the judge may also appoint an attorney to represent the individual. The proposed conservatee must attend the hearing unless it’s determined that they cannot meaningfully participate.
- At the hearing, the court will either grant or deny the requested conservatorship. If the conservatorship is granted, the court will issue an order appointing a conservator and letters of conservatorship. The conservator will have the powers that are indicated in the court order.
At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced California estate planning attorneys who can help you evaluate your situation and plan for the future. Please contact us online or by phone to set up a free consultation today.