If you are facing the reality of an aging relative suffering from diminished mental capacity, it may be time to consider conservatorship. This legal term refers to several paths that result in you, as a conservator, taking over certain responsibilities. In most cases, a conservator petitions a court in order to obtain legal responsibility in medical and financial matters.

The main difference between the legal terms “conservatorship” and “guardianship” is the age of the individual who needs support. The former is used when an adult is the individual who requires help making decisions, whereas the latter relates to children who have not reached the age of 18.

Conservatorship is not a single legal mechanism, as the needs of the individual typically dictate the nature of any arrangement. While mental or cognitive limitations are a common deciding factor in the creation of a conservatorship, individuals suffering from certain physical conditions may also qualify in the eyes of a court. If you are thinking about petitioning the court for conservatorship, there are several forms that must be submitted for consideration.

What is a Conservatorship?

As we age, loss of certain mental faculties becomes more likely. There may come a time when elderly relatives require support in making important decisions. Typically, matters concerning health and finances are areas that can leave vulnerable individuals open to abuse, manipulation or coercion. A caring relative or friend may therefore request conservatorship as a way to support a loved one.

Conservatorships are not created without thorough consideration. Relevant evidence can help a court decide if a conservatorship is necessary. The nature of any arrangement will depend on the physical and mental health of the proposed conservatee. A conservatee’s ability to make sound decisions is of special importance when making determinations on such an important matter.

The attorney involved in the petition for a conservatorship also plays a crucial role. All parties who have an interest in the matter are consulted and a report is created by the attorney. This report is intended to include recommendations to the court on whether or not a conservatorship is merited.

Benefits of Conservatorship

It is never assumed that an individual petitioning for conservatorship has nothing but honorable intentions. Many elderly or disabled persons are vulnerable to abuse, which is why it is necessary to submit several forms that outline reasons for requesting conservatorship, and details about all concerned parties, to the probate court.

The degree to which a proposed conservatee faces limitations when it comes to making decisions is also an important factor. As a potential conservator, you may not receive legal conservatorship over all matters. For instance, a conservatee may have the right to control their own finances while the conservator takes control of medical decisions.

The only person who should benefit from a conservatorship is the conservatee. Levels of competence are assessed so that the conservatee receives the support that he or she needs. However, information provided to the attorney and court is also used to assess the trustworthiness of any potential conservator. With all the complexities that are inherent in the process, it is important that any potential conservators consider seeking help from an experienced attorney.

The process of gaining conservatorship is complicated and requires the gathering and submission of a relatively large amount of information. If you feel like the burden is too much to take on alone, Susan B. Geffen can help in Santa Monica.

Call or contact Susan online at her Los Angeles offices to arrange your first consultation. We look forward to helping you cut through the red tape involved in applying for a conservatorship in California.

Elder Law Attorney (Lawyer for Old People) Susan B. Geffen

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