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 https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/handbook.pdf
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.