What is a conservatorship and when should you start planning?

Mature woman comforting senior mom sitting on wheelchair at nursing home. Cheerful woman talking to old disabled mother in wheelchair at elder care centre. Loving caregiver taking care of elderly woman at home.If you are searching for a way to care for a loved one who is unable to handle their affairs without assistance, then a conservatorship may be a good option for your family.

When considering a conservatorship, it’s important to think about the needs your loved one faces and how this arrangement would work within your family. In California, a conservatorship is established as a last resort by a judge who appoints a person or organization to serve as the conservator for the individual, known as the conservatee. There are several types of conservatorships, each with different components meant to meet the needs of each unique conservatee.

A court can appoint a conservator of the person, the estate, or both. A conservator of the person is not automatically appointed as the conservator of the estate as well. If a potential conservator is seeking to be a conservator of both, the individual must petition the court for approval to serve as a conservator of both the person and the estate. Or, a current conservator of the person can petition the court to become the conservator of the estate.

Perhaps the most common conservatorship is the Probate Conservatorship, created based on the California Probate Code. A general probate conservatorship is best for someone who cannot care for themselves or their finances, while a limited probate conservatorship is best for a person with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves or their finances, and does not require a high level of care or help.

In contrast, Lantern-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorships are initiated by a local government agency in the event that the conservatee cannot or will not agree to enter special living arrangements or treatment on their own. Often this type of conservatorship is best for those with a serious mental health illness. However, because LPS conservatorships must be initiated by a government agency, you will need to contact a local county Public Guardian or Conservator in order to initiate an LPS conservatorship.

Another critical consideration when establishing a conservatorship is the burden of responsibility placed upon the individual serving as conservator. Responsibilities of the conservator will differ depending on the type of conservatorship. For example, in the case of a limited probate conservatorship, the conservator’s responsibility is to help the conservatee develop maximum self-reliance. Therefore, a conservator’s duties will only apply to those activities the conservatee cannot do without help.

In the case of a conservator of an estate, duties will include managing the conservatee’s finances, paying the conservatee’s bills, protecting the conservatee’s assets, creating a budget for the conservatee, and providing an accounting to the court demonstrating proper management of the conservatee’s assets.

Contact a Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney

If you believe that a conservatorship may be necessary for your family in the near future, an experienced attorney from LA Elder Law will be able to assess your situation and determine whether a conservatorship is right for you. You can contact us directly by calling 310-823-3943 to schedule a free consultation about your unique needs. We look forward to working with you.