Category: Conservatorship

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Is it Time to Consider a Limited Conservatorship?

Watching a loved one deteriorate physically or mentally can be devastating. If you have to also worry about the future of their financial affairs or medical care, however, the burden can be exponential. Hiring a Conservatorship Lawyer, such as Susan B. Geffen in Los Angeles, may be one of the best decisions you can make during this difficult or transitional stage of life for your loved one.

What is Conservatorship?

Conservatorship, also known as guardianship in some jurisdictions, is a legal arrangement in which a court appoints a responsible person or organization to manage the affairs and make decisions on behalf of another person, typically someone who is unable to make such decisions due to incapacity or disability.

Conservatorship can be established for minors, adults with disabilities, or elderly individuals who are no longer able to manage their own affairs. The appointed conservator is responsible for making decisions related to the person’s health care, financial affairs, and general welfare, and must act in the best interest of the individual under their care.

The process of establishing conservatorship typically involves filing a petition with the court, providing evidence of the individual’s incapacity or disability, and attending a hearing where the court will determine whether conservatorship is necessary and who the conservator should be. Conservatorship is a serious legal arrangement that involves significant responsibilities and obligations.

Conservatorship Laws in California

Conservatorship laws in California are governed by the California Probate Code. Here are some key provisions of California conservatorship laws:

  • Types of conservatorship: California law provides for two types of conservatorships: conservatorship of the person and conservatorship of the estate. Conservatorship of the person involves making decisions related to the individual’s personal care and medical treatment, while conservatorship of the estate involves managing the individual’s finances.
  • Establishing a conservatorship: A conservatorship can be established if a court finds that the individual is unable to provide for their own personal needs or manage their own finances due to a physical or mental condition.
  • Appointment of conservator: The court will appoint a conservator to manage the affairs of the individual. The conservator may be a family member, friend, or professional conservator.
  • Duties of conservator: The conservator has a duty to act in the best interests of the individual and to manage their affairs with the highest degree of care. The conservator must also file regular reports with the court.
  • Termination of conservatorship: A conservatorship can be terminated if the individual regains capacity, if the conservatorship is no longer necessary, or if the conservator is no longer capable or suitable.
  • Rights of the individual: Individuals subject to conservatorship in California have certain rights, including the right to counsel, the right to receive notice of all court proceedings related to the conservatorship, and the right to request a hearing to challenge the conservatorship.

Overall, conservatorship laws in California are designed to protect the interests of individuals who are unable to manage their own affairs due to physical or mental incapacity. A consultation with Conservatorship Attorney Susan B. Geffen can ensure that all legal requirements are met and the individual’s best interests are protected.

What is a Limited Conservatorship?

A limited conservatorship is a type of conservatorship in which the conservator’s powers are limited to specific areas of the conservatee’s life. Unlike a general conservatorship, where the conservator has broad powers to manage the conservatee’s affairs, a limited conservatorship is intended for individuals who have some capacity to manage their own affairs but still require assistance in certain areas.

In California, a limited conservatorship is typically established for individuals with developmental disabilities who are unable to fully manage their own affairs. The purpose of a limited conservatorship is to promote the conservatee’s independence and self-reliance while still providing the necessary support and protection.

The powers of a limited conservator are defined by the court and may include the ability to make decisions related to the conservatee’s personal care, medical treatment, education, and residence. However, the conservator’s powers may be limited in other areas, such as managing the conservatee’s finances.

To establish a limited conservatorship in California, a petition must be filed with the court, and the court must determine that the conservatee has a developmental disability and requires assistance in specific areas of their life. The court will also appoint an attorney to represent the conservatee and may require an evaluation by a medical or psychological professional.

Overall, a limited conservatorship can be a valuable tool for providing assistance and protection to individuals with developmental disabilities while still promoting their independence and self-determination. Attorney Susan B. Geffen is an experienced lawyer for limited conservatorship who keeps you and your loved one’s best interests at the forefront.

Reasons to Establish a Conservatorship or Limited Conservatorship

Does your situation warrant a conservatorship or limited conservatorship? It can be difficult to make this serious legal decision. Los Angeles attorney Susan B. Geffen has the experience you need to navigate this limited guardianship process.

There are several reasons why someone may need a conservatorship, including:

  • Age-related disabilities: As people age, they may develop physical or cognitive disabilities that make it difficult for them to manage their own affairs. In such cases, a conservatorship may be necessary to ensure their financial and medical needs are met.
  • Mental illness: Individuals with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may struggle to make sound decisions and manage their own affairs. A conservatorship may be necessary to ensure they receive the care they need.
  • Developmental disabilities: Individuals with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism may require assistance managing their affairs throughout their lives. A conservatorship may be necessary to ensure they receive the necessary care and support.
  • Substance abuse: Individuals with substance abuse issues may not be able to manage their affairs while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A conservatorship may be necessary to ensure they receive the care they need and to manage their finances.

Overall, a conservatorship is intended to protect the individual’s best interests and ensure they receive the care and support they need. It is an important legal tool that can provide peace of mind to both the individual and their loved ones.

Reasons to Terminate a Conservatorship

Susan B. Geffen is a Conservatorship Attorney who qualified to establish this type of guardianship as well as terminate it when needed. There may be situations where a conservatorship is no longer necessary or appropriate, and terminating the conservatorship may be in the best interests of the individual. Here are some common reasons to terminate a conservatorship:

  • The individual has regained capacity: If the individual has recovered their capacity to manage their own affairs, the conservatorship may no longer be necessary.
  • The conservatorship is no longer needed: If the individual’s condition has improved or their needs have changed, the conservatorship may no longer be necessary.
  • The conservator is no longer capable or suitable: If the conservator is no longer capable of fulfilling their duties or is not acting in the best interests of the individual, the conservatorship may need to be terminated.
  • The conservatorship is causing harm: If the conservatorship is causing harm to the individual, such as through financial exploitation or abuse, the conservatorship may need to be terminated.
  • The individual wishes to terminate the conservatorship: If the individual expresses a desire to terminate the conservatorship, the court may consider this as a factor in deciding whether to terminate the conservatorship.

In general, termination of a conservatorship requires a court order, and the process can be complex. It is important to have a skilled limited conservatorship lawyer to protect your rights at every step.

How Conservatorship Attorney Susan B. Geffen Can Help

A conservatorship lawyer is defined as a legal professional who specializes in helping clients establish, manage, and terminate conservatorships. As a trusted conservatorship lawyer, Susan B. Geffen can undertake the following specific tasks for her clients:

  • Advise clients on their legal options: A conservatorship lawyer can provide guidance on whether a conservatorship is necessary and what type of conservatorship is most appropriate.
  • Assist with the conservatorship petition: To establish a conservatorship, a petition must be filed with the court. A conservatorship lawyer can assist with preparing and filing the petition.
  • Represent clients in court: A conservatorship lawyer can represent clients in court proceedings related to the establishment, management, or termination of a conservatorship.
  • Help manage the conservatorship: Once a conservatorship is established, a conservatorship lawyer can provide guidance on how to manage the conservatorship effectively and ensure compliance with legal requirements.
  • Terminate the conservatorship: If the conservatorship is no longer necessary or appropriate, a conservatorship lawyer can assist with terminating the conservatorship and returning control of the individual’s affairs to them.

Contact a Limited Conservatorship Lawyer in Los Angeles Today!

Are you concerned about someone taking advantage of your loved one’s mental or developmental disability? A limited conservatorship can offer this protection and can keep your loved one well cared for and safe. Los Angeles attorney Susan B. Geffen has the experience you need to navigate the limited guardianship process. In her career, Susan has worked with many families facing similar situations, and she can provide the same care for you and your family.

Contact our South Bay office today to schedule a consultation.

Happy smiling retired couple during on-line meeting with an Elder Law Attorney.

Transfer on Death Deeds – Revised California Law

The law on transfer on death deeds was set to expire this year. Instead, it was revised, and the law will stay in effect until 2032. A transfer on death deed allows an individual to pass their real property onto a beneficiary after they die without the expense of a probate or a trust. Transferrable real estate includes most condominium interests and residential properties with four or fewer dwelling units.

While this procedure does avoid red tape and expenses, the availability of those deeds can be a financial elder abuse trap for the vulnerable or cognitive challenged older adult. Although the changes to the law now require the signature of two disinterested witnesses, I have seen many brainwashed older adults transfer property to another after that individual has convinced them that they are the appropriate recipients. Often, they foster a belief system that their natural heirs are unworthy. The requirement that the transferers signature on the deed be notarized remains in effect, but notaries do know if someone has been unduly influenced into transferring their property unless the perpetrator is there breathing down the older adults whose hand is shaking from fear when they sign. Elder abusers are usually more savvy having groomed their victim over time.

Like with a trust or a will, there will still be an opportunity to challenge the deed as the heirs must receive a notice of the deed, the deed and the death certificate. The beneficiary must record the affidavit verifying notice to the heirs. If you receive a notice and you believe that there was elder abuse or undue influence involved, call an attorney immediately as there is a limited amount of time to mount a challenge.

Young woman talking aggressively to a scared elder woman.

Fighting Families

Trust litigation is very taxing. I just had a mediation, and the Judge described the probate courts as “family law on steroids.” There is no typical case, but they all seem eerily similar. Most all involve older adults, usually parents, who have been taken to a new attorney by an adult child who unduly influences said parent into disinheriting the other children. Worse, often that parent is isolated from the other children and is turned against them because the “bad” kid has their ear 24/7. While it is bad enough that the heirs have had their bequests stripped from them, what is truly tragic is that the older adult has had their dignity smashed; a whole life of love and kisses in bits and pieces like a fragile mirror after a tumultuous earthquake.

To do this takes a lot of moving pieces.

Here’s the recipe:

Step 1. Make sure that your parents are cognitively challenged, and vulnerable.
Step 2. Find a willing attorney (that is not me)
Step 3. Drag your parent to the “willing” attorney, and on the way fill her head with horror stories and make her fearful of her other children. I have a good one. Tell her that your siblings want to lock her up in a facility and steal her money. That should do the trick. Once the deed is done, move in with her and isolate the rest of her kids from her. Tada! Just like magic.

So what can you do about it? Unless you’ve lucked into a good Probate Judge, sometimes nothing. Can you imagine going to court (with a conservatorship or elder abuse petition) and having the Judge either kick the can down the road while your time with mom fades away or defer it to a court appointed counsel who either does not understand the subtleties of undue influence or for some inexplicable reason sides with the what seems to be the obvious ne’er -do-well? In the latter circumstance, it seems that the “bad” kid must be really good at bamboozling not just the demented.

Old people can get brainwashed easily. Period.

If you get a thoughtful Judge, you can petition the court for an emergency conservatorship and get a visitation order. In one case recently that is exactly what happened. The trouble is that mom may not abide by the order having been told repeatedly that you are evil. In another case, the isolation was so bad, that my client got custody of her father and was made his temporary conservator.

What if you know that mom is incapacitated, and you know that the changes to her trust are the result not only of undue influence but that she did not have the capacity to make the purported changes? Can you fix this during her lifetime?

The answer is yes and more importantly if you wait until after she dies, you may have waived your right to contest. During mom’s life you can either petition the court for a conservatorship and seek to reform the trust though a substituted judgment proceeding within the conservatorship proceedings, or you can file a petition to invalidate the trust if there is no conservatorship proceeding.

If you do neither you can lose your standing to challenge the trust after mom dies under the doctrine of latches according to Drake v. Pinkham 217 Cal.App.4th 400 (Cal. App. 2013).

In Drake v. Pinkham the Third District Court of Appeal held that that a beneficiary may have had standing if, as the beneficiary alleged, the settlor was incompetent at the time she brought her trust contest. The court suggests that an aggrieved beneficiary may be able to bring a pre-death trust contest if the beneficiary can ultimately prove the settlor’s incompetence.

More importantly the court found that by the daughter failing to take this action during mom’s lifetime, she could not pursue a trust contest post death because she was barred by the doctrine of latches (an equitable doctrine that is a sorry Charlie you waited too long).

The key lesson of Drake is that beneficiaries cannot simply wait until Mom is deceased to contest trust amendments that disfavor them if they know (or should know) of the amendments and also know (or should know) of mom’s incapacity.

Britney Spears California conservatorship case

What is significant about the Britney Spears California conservatorship case?

Britney Spears California conservatorship case
What is significant about the Britney Spears Case

Two very compelling issues in the Britney Spears California conservatorship case deserve attention.

It is important for the public to be aware and to make sure that you or your loved one does everyone you/she/they can avoid this from happening. If it does, you really need a strong advocate.

The first is that she was precluded from hiring her own counsel. Instead, the court disallowed her choice of Attorney Adam Streisand (Yes, Barbara Streisand’s son). Instead she was forced to accept a court appointed counsel (CAC) who, despite what his client wanted, was instrumental in keeping Ms. Spears from hiring Mr. Streisand.

Because the CAC makes money representing Ms. Spears (or any proposed conservatee) that is a serious conflict of interest. In every California conservatorship case, a proposed conservatee (someone who is the subject of the action like Ms. Spears), must get personally served with a “citation.” This is like a summons and complaint. It serves to ensure that the person whose civil rights will be impacted has due process.

What is due process? It is, among other things, the right to counsel to defend yourself against allegations. In fact, on the citation, paragraph 6, it literally says :

“You have the right to appear at the petition and oppose the hearing. You have the right to hire an attorney of your choice to represent you. The court will appoint an attorney for you If you are unable to retain one.“ (emphasis added.)

Next, this CAC, her supposed advocate, agreed that she should not be allowed to have copies of certain documents filed on her behalf and filed by her father, who initiated this conservatorship.

Imagine that. Your attorney, who you did not hire, who gets paid from your account by court order, does not have to share documents with you? If I did that or any of my colleagues did that in a conservatorship case in California, we would be disbarred.

This CAC can and does bill Ms. Spears thousands of dollars every month.  She does not want to be in a conservatorship (and does not want her father involved), and it was only when the public began to take notice and apply media pressure that the court appointed counsel woke up and began to advocate for her freedom.

This started out as a temporary conservatorship. Perhaps, and I do not profess to know, there was an emergency (see my blog on California Conservatorships) but we all know that Ms. Spears has been working tirelessly and certainly the exigent circumstances have seen better days as must this conservatorship.

California Conservatorship Attorney

How to Obtain a Conservatorship in California

Before we go over how to obtain a Conservatorship in California, we need to understand some terminology. In California, unlike other states, we call a protective proceeding for an adult a conservatorship. While a protective proceeding for a minor is called guardianship.

They serve the same purpose – to manage medical and or financial affairs for someone who is unable to, due to age or infirmity. This impaired individual is appointed a guardian or protector by the court who can step in as (the “conservator”). Guardianship in California is a vehicle used to assist those 18 an under. To make things even more confusing there are 3 different types of conservatorship proceedings.

A General Conservatorship:

Most often used in the cases of an elderly person whose mental or physical capacity has been severely compromised due to aging.

A Limited Conservatorship:

Generally set up for those who have developmental disabilities, such as individuals with autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or mental retardation that began before their 18th birthday.

A LPS conservatorship:

(Also known as a mental health conservatorship is part of the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act 1967.) An LPS Conservatorship is the legal term used in California. It gives the conservator the responsibility for overseeing the comprehensive medical (mental) treatment for an adult conservatee who has a serious mental illness. Conservatees in LPS Conservatorships are usually adults who require very restrictive living arrangements and/or require extensive mental health treatment. LPS Conservatorships must be started by a local government agency.

In order to get a conservatorship, you must file certain papers with the court. The goal is to obtain an order from the Judge and letters of conservatorship that the newly appointed conservator can use with banks and doctors, etc. The paperwork and the court appearances required to put things in order can be overwhelming.  In order to get a hearing, one must typically wait 60 days. In emergency situations, you can get a hearing in as little as 5 court days. This is called a temporary conservatorship. If successful, you will be provided with temporary letters to use until the hearing on the permanent (resulting in permanent letters).

Even though this seems like a daunting process, don’t let that keep you from taking charge of a dangerous or life-threatening situation. At the Law Offices of Susan B. Geffen, we have the knowledge and skills to file the necessary paperwork to accomplish our client’s goals.

Steps for filing for a Conservatorship:

1. File a Petition For Conservatorship with the court:

The petition must include information about the proposed conservator. This includes potential conservatee, relatives, and the petitioner (person filing the case in court). It must also include reasons explaining why the conservatorship is necessary and should be granted. As well as, why the possible alternatives are not available in this case.

2. File a Confidential Supplemental Information Form:

This form details why the proposed conservatee is unable to care for their own personal and financial needs.

3. File a Confidential Conservatorship Screening Form:

The Confidential Conservatorship Screening Form must be filled out by the proposed conservator. The form includes questions about the conservator’s relationship to the conservatee, about the conservator’s criminal background, and any other relevant information.

4. File a Duties of Conservator Form:

This form outlines what the conservator will be doing for the conservatee. This includes information such as taking care of the conservatee, keeping records and accountings of finances, providing information to the court, etc. The proposed conservator must read and sign this form to acknowledge that they have received this information along with the Handbook for Conservators. Click here for an online copy

5. Serve Notice on the Conservatee:

You must inform the potential conservatee of the proposed conservatorship by delivering a citation and a copy of the petition. The citation must be delivered by an individual who is NOT a party in the conservatorship. This means that the proposed conservator cannot deliver the citation. A family member or professional may deliver the citation.

6. Provide Notice to the Conservatee’s Relatives:

You must mail a copy of the petition along with written notice about the court hearing on the conservatorship petition to the conservatee’s spouse/domestic partner and close relatives. These documents must be mailed by someone other than the petitioner.

7. Obtain a bond.

The bond protects the conservatee’s assets.  If the conservator engages in theft, fraud, misrepresentation, or improper handling of assets a claim can be made against the bond.  The conservatorship bond amount is determined by the judge and is based on the worth of the financials or estate of the person you are caring for. You won’t have to pay the entire bond amount to get bonded, but you will have to pay an annual premium for the bond, until the bond is released from the court. You will pay for a small percentage of the total bond amount. For example, if the court requires you to provide a bond in the amount of $100,000, you will not have to pay $100,000. Depending on your approval with the surety company, you might only need to pay around $400 – $500.

At the Law Offices of Susan B. Geffen, we have handled dozens and dozens of general and limited conservatorships. Susan B. Geffen is not only an elder law attorney but holds a Master of Science degree in gerontology from the University of Southern California. Giving her a unique insight into the struggles that both a concerned family may have about a loved one’s ability to continue to care for themselves.