A conservatorship is a legal arrangement in which an adult oversees the personal care or financial matters of another adult considered incapable of managing alone. The incapacitated person is the "conservatee" and the person who takes over care is called the "conservator". A conservatorship may be created when an adult person is unable to properly provide for his or her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing or shelter. This is called a conservatorship of the person.
A conservatorship may also be created when an adult person is unable to manage his or her own financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence. This is called a conservatorship of the estate. Sometimes it is necessary to establish a conservatorship of both the person and the estate.
An adult person may voluntarily request the appointment of a conservator. A conservatorship may also be created for a minor who is married or whose marriage has been dissolved, and who otherwise meets the criteria for an adult conservatorship, or for a member of the uniformed services or other agency of the United States, who is officially determined to be missing.
Conservatorships are heard in the probate department of the superior court. Many of the forms used for filing a conservatorship petition are the same as those used for filing for a guardianship of a minor.
Conservatorship of the person
A conservator owes a fiduciary duty to the conservatee, which is the highest duty of care one can owe to another. The "Handbook for Conservators" and the video "With Heart--Understanding Conservatorships" provide necessary information on the duties of a conservator. The Conservatorship Video is available at the Ventura Court's Self-Help Legal Access Center.
Conservatorship of the estate
If there are assets which need protection, the conservator should retain private legal counsel to advise him or her about obligations regarding the estate. The court requires accountings and reportings on a regular basis. Ignorance of the requirements is not an excuse for failure to comply. For this reason, it is always recommended that conservators of an estate be represented by legal counsel. The attorneys fees must be approved by the court, and generally may be paid from estate assets.
A Lanterman-Petris Short or LPS Conservatorship may be established to arrange placement and mental health treatment for persons who are unable to provide for their food, clothing or shelter as a result of a mental disorder, chronic alcoholism or substance abuse.
For more information on Conservatorship, visit the California Courts Self-Help Center.