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Conservatorships in California: An Essential Resource for Families

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When a loved one starts feeling the effects of aging or becomes partially incapacitated due to an accident or medical condition that makes it harder for them to care for themselves or their finances, a conservatorship may be an option to help that person continue to live a healthy life and keep their affairs in order. But how do conservatorships work, and when should you consider filing for one? The attorneys at the Sheela Stark Law Group, APC, explain how conservatorships work in California and the ways an attorney can help you through the filing process.

What Are Limited Conservatorships?

When an adult is deemed to lack the capacity to care for themselves or manage their finances independently, a conservatorship may be granted by the court. A conservatorship is the legal process of appointing another person (called a “conservator”) to handle the care and/or financial matters of the conservatee (the person needing help). Conservatorships can be divided into general and limited.

A general conservatorship grants the conservator authority to handle all aspects of the conservatee’s care and/or estate. In contrast, a conservatorship gives the conservatee a little more freedom and is not as restrictive because the conservator’s powers are limited, and the conservatee still gets to retain the powers they have the capacity to handle independently. In some cases, certain powers can be shared between the conservatee and the conservator, allowing them to make decisions together. conservatorships are usually awarded in cases of adults with developmental disabilities when the disability is expected to continue indefinitely.

What Are the Powers of a Conservator in a Conservatorship?

When deciding what powers a limited conservator should have, there are seven different aspects that are usually taken into account:

  • Choosing where the conservatee lives
  • Accessing the conservatee’s confidential information
  • Deciding whether the conservatee can get married
  • Entering into contracts on the conservatee’s behalf
  • Making medical decisions for the conservatee
  • Controlling the conservatee’s social and sexual relationships
  • Making decisions regarding the conservatee’s education

Because the goal of a conservatorship is to help the conservatee develop their independence, the conservator may be given all or just some of these seven powers. It all depends on the conservatee’s abilities. For instance, in some cases, the conservator may be given all seven powers, but that can later be changed to include only five of the seven powers as the conservatee makes progress and is able to do more for themselves. Even if a conservator is given all seven powers, the conservatorship is still considered limited rather than general, as it is meant to give support to the conservatee in the least restrictive way possible.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Conservatorship?

A conservatorship provides families with a way of supporting an adult with developmental disabilities throughout all phases of their lives. It is a tool to both protect and guide a loved one with the aspects they need help with, such as making medical decisions or handling their estate while allowing the conservatee to retain independence and control over other aspects of their lives. In other words, a conservatorship allows the conservator to have the power to handle only the aspects the conservatee needs help with. conservatorships last until the conservatee develops the capacity to handle their own affairs.

Conservatorships can also have some risks and disadvantages. In some cases, an application for a conservatorship can result in a heated legal battle that resembles a custody case. This can happen when more than one person wants to be the conservator or when not all parties agree that the conservatorship is needed or on the powers the conservator should have. Another possible drawback is that the conservatee’s wishes may not always be respected by the conservator. In addition, there have been cases where the court decided to appoint another person, such as a public guardian, to be the conservator instead of the family member of the proposed conservatee. For these reasons, it is important to talk to an experienced conservatorship attorney if you are considering one for your loved one.

How Can an Attorney Help Me Set up a Conservatorship for My Loved One?

By speaking to a skilled conservatorship lawyer before taking action, you can better understand all of the details about how a conservatorship works, its advantages and disadvantages, and the steps you can take to file for one. Your attorney can assist you with the process of preparing your petition and building your argument to show the court why you believe a conservatorship would be in the best interests of your loved one.

The process of putting a  conservatorship in place has a lot of involvement from the proposed conservatee. They have the right to have their own attorney and will be interviewed by the court whenever possible. They also have the right to totally or partially object to the conservatorship. It is important for a proposed conservator to understand the process and be prepared to convince the court that they are qualified and able to take on the role of a limited conservator. In the event that you end up facing a contested conservatorship, your attorney can represent you in court and help you build a strong case. If you are considering a conservatorship for your loved one, have questions, or would like to learn more information, reach out to the skilled legal team at the Sheela Stark Law Group, APC, by calling 909-675-1545 and requesting an initial consultation to see how we can help you.

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