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Law Offices of James C. Shields

Conservatorship, Guardianship, and Dependent Children In Southern California

Building your will is a life-changing event in many ways and it takes a lot of planning and thought. The entire process can also be an apprehensive time, especially when you have responsibilities that must continue on after your death. That fear becomes real when you must decide how to provide for any dependent children that you are currently caring for.

How can you trust that your loved one will be okay without you to make decisions for them? What are your options when it comes to the details of your will?


First of all, you need to decide on a physical guardian for your dependent, and everyone legally involved must agree with the solution. This means social workers, therapists, doctors, ad litem, and any other person who has a say in the life and future of your dependent.

Who do you know would best uphold your wishes and take care of the person in the best way possible? Who is trustworthy, stable, patient, and compassionate? Who is in an appropriate time in their lives to be able to monetarily provide for this person?

There are other options if you cannot find guardians within your friends and family groups. This may involve a finagling of the finances. How, then, can you make sure that they are taken care of monetarily?


Some people use the words 'conservator' and 'guardian' interchangeably. Others believe that guardians have physical custody of the individual while a conservator takes care of all the individual's monetary needs.

For our purposes, conservators take care of the big-ticket items, such as inheritances and big purchases as well as day to day budgets and allowances. A lawyer the family agrees upon is a great option for many during this time.

A trusted and experienced conservator will help ensure that all the individual's physical needs are met and personally manage all aspects of their finances. You can choose between two types of conservators, based on your needs.

  • Estate Conservator: manages the individual's larger monetary issues, such as their property, assets, and personal wills. They may apply for government resources in the client's interest and monitor the government's understanding of the assets.
  • Personal Conservator: manages the day-to-day finances of the individual and may also act as guardian

Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust is a great option as it allows the individual to retain their money while still qualifying for government benefits. Complete control over the money is given to a trustee who must agree to every purchase. This trust can last a lifetime and the individual cannot touch the money or argue for any changes in the contract.

For the record, these funds are usually shielded from most creditors and whatever is left over after the life of this person can be further inherited by your family.

There are several ways that you can organize your special needs trust, and it all depends on what the person needs regarding healthcare and the quality of the life that they will lead. The trust you choose will be based on the money you can leave the person, their disability, and the assets they may have had if they were not born with the disability, and what you would want to happen to any leftover money.

Call James C. Shields About Your Money Concerns

It's never too early to start thinking and planning for the future of your dependent children, no matter their age. It is important to find an attorney and a legal-minded conservator that you can trust to create and maintain your trust.

Our team at the Law Offices Of James C. Shields can help you with your estate, probate, and debt relief needs. Contact us to protect your assets today. Your first case review is always free.