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Conservatorship Lawyer in California

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If you have a loved one who is incapacitated or struggling to take care of themselves and manage their finances due to a mental or physical illness, you may be thinking about filing for a conservatorship. However, it is important to consider how a conservatorship may impact you and your loved one. The attorneys at Sheela Stark Law Group, APC, provide an overview of how conservatorships work in California and the steps you can take to obtain one for your loved one. If you have questions about conservatorships or estate planning matters, contact the Sheela Stark Law Group, APC, at 909-675-1545.

What Is a Conservatorship?

A conservatorship is an order that allows a court-appointed individual (the conservator) to be in charge of the finances and medical care of another person, referred to as the conservatee. In California, conservatorships are used to help protect the health and safety of an individual who is unable to care for themselves due to a variety of factors, such as age, physical or mental illness, and disability. The conservator is appointed by the court and is responsible for making important decisions on behalf of the conservatee, including financial decisions and health care decisions.

When a conservatorship is established, the conservator may be given the authority to manage the conservatee’s assets. This includes handling the conservatee’s finances, investments, and monthly expenses and protecting the conservatee’s assets from being misused. The conservator may also be responsible for managing the conservatee’s personal and healthcare needs, including making decisions about medical treatments and medications.

What Is the Difference Between a Conservatorship and a Guardianship?

In California, a conservatorship is a court-ordered arrangement that enables an individual (the conservator) to make decisions on behalf of another person (the conservatee) who is unable to care for themselves. A guardianship, on the other hand, is a court-ordered arrangement that enables an individual (the guardian) to make decisions on behalf of a minor child, such as decisions about medical treatments and schooling. Guardianships are usually established when the child’s parents are unable to care for the child due to death, illness, or other reasons.

While both terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the primary difference between a conservatorship and a guardianship is that a conservatorship is established to help protect and care for an adult, while a guardianship is established to help protect the health and safety of a minor child. If you are not sure whether you need a conservatorship or a guardianship for your loved one, be sure to consult an attorney before taking any further action.

Are There Different Types of Conservatorships?

In California, there are three different types of conservatorships. Probate conservatorships are divided into two different categories – general and limited. In addition, there are also Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorships.

A general conservatorship is usually meant for adults who are completely unable to care for themselves or their finances due to age, disability, or severe impairments. This type of conservatorship gives the conservator all necessary authority to make decisions and manage the conservatee’s affairs. If the conservatee is deemed to be still able to handle some of their matters but needs help with other matters, then the court may allow for a limited conservatorship. With a limited conservatorship, the conservator’s authority is limited to seven specific powers defined in accordance with the needs of the conservatee.

A Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorship is meant for an incapacitated adult who has serious mental illnesses and needs specialized treatment in an inpatient locked facility, for example. This type of conservatorship is most commonly used when the conservatee requires restrictive living arrangements and is incapable of taking care of their own physical health and basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing.

How Do You Obtain a Conservatorship for a Loved One?

Conservatorships are analyzed and ordered by the local court. In order to be appointed as the conservator for a loved one, you will need to file all required paperwork with the court. You may need to be prepared to pay any necessary filing fees as well as a court investigator fee. In some cases, these fees may be waived for eligible, low-income individuals.

Once the petition is filed, a citation and a copy of the petition should be served to the proposed conservatee. This cannot be done by the proposed conservator, but any other competent person over 18 can deliver the documents to the proposed conservatee. In addition, the conservatee’s spouse and close family members should also receive a copy of the citation and petition by mail. After that, the court will analyze the petition and schedule a date and time for a conservatorship court hearing.

What Happens at the Conservatorship Interview?

At the conservatorship interview, the judge will interview the proposed conservatee and their relatives who are familiar with the conservatee’s condition. In general, the conservatee is required to attend the interview unless they have an excusable illness or condition that prevents them from being able to be present. During the interview, the person petitioning for the conservatorship should demonstrate to the judge that there are no better options and that a conservatorship is the best choice for their loved one. This can be done by presenting supporting evidence, such as medical reports and letters from the conservatee’s doctor.

The judge will determine if all interested parties have been properly notified of the conservatorship petition and will decide if the conservatee should be represented by a separate conservatorship attorney. The judge will then decide whether to deny or approve the petition. If the petition is approved, the person wishing to become the conservator for their loved one will receive their Letters of Conservatorship once a court order is filed and they are officially appointed as the conservator. Once a person is appointed as the conservator, they may be required to attend court-offered training classes to learn about their responsibilities and to show up for regularly scheduled reviews and meetings with the court investigator.

Can a Conservatorship Be Contested in California?

Both types of probate conservatorship, as well as the LPS conservatorship, may be contested in certain situations. In California, each type of conservatorship can give the conservator authority over the conservatee’s estate, person, or both. It is important to know what type of conservatorship you intend to challenge before proceeding.

Situations that may justify a conservatorship challenge include abuse, overstepping responsibilities, priority, and necessity. If your family member is being abused by the conservator, meaning the conservatee is being physically, mentally, or financially harmed and exploited by the conservator, you may have the grounds to contest the conservatorship, as such behaviors could be considered a contractual breach by the court.

Likewise, certain conservatorships only give the conservator authority to make certain decisions but not others. For example, if a person is given a limited conservatorship over the conservatee’s estate, they may not make any decisions regarding the personal health of the conservatee. Another reason for a conservatorship contest is when someone higher up on the priority list decides they wish to take on the role of the conservator. For example, if a cousin of the conservatee is the current conservator, but the conservatee’s spouse decides they would like that position instead, they may challenge the current conservator. Finally, if the conservatee believes that the conservatorship is no longer necessary and that they can take care of their own affairs without help, a conservatorship contest may be needed if the conservator disagrees.

How Can a Conservatorship Attorney Help Me?

If you are considering petitioning for a conservatorship for a loved one or need help challenging a current conservatorship in California, your first step should be to contact an experienced conservatorship attorney, such as the ones at Sheela Stark Law Group, APC. Our attorneys have helped countless clients in California with a variety of conservatorship matters, and we are here to assist you as well.

Becoming a conservator is not something to be taken lightly, as you will have a variety of contractual obligations and responsibilities. Courts are hesitant to allow a conservatorship for someone who simply needs help, as there have to be more significant reasons to justify the petition. Our attorneys can help you fully understand what is required of you as a conservator and if a conservatorship is truly the right choice for you and your loved one. If so, our attorneys can help you gather the required evidence to show the court that the conservatorship would indeed be in the best interests of your loved one. We can also help you build a strong case to contest a conservatorship when necessary.

If you need help regarding conservatorships, have questions, or need to learn more information, contact the legal team at the Sheela Stark Law Group, APC, by calling 909-675-1545 and requesting a confidential consultation to discuss your case.