Around 1.5 million adults are under conservatorships or guardianships. Conservatorships are court cases where a judge appoints a person or organization as a conservator to care for a conservatee. Conservators are assigned when the court deems an individual to be unfit or unable to care for themselves and manage their finances. Most often, conservatees are older people with mental or physical disabilities; however, this is not always the case. One of the most notable conservatees is performer Britney Spears, who has been under the conservatorship of her father since 2008.
There are a variety of different conservators and conservatees, the most common of which we will be exploring in more detail in this blog. Generally speaking, conservators help take care of and manage the daily tasks and financial burdens of the individual in their care. Keep reading to learn more!
Types of Conservators
There are two main types of conservators: conservator of the person and conservator of the estate.
- When the court appoints an individual as the conservator of a person, they are responsible for protecting the person when the judge determines that they cannot protect themselves. They must ensure that the conservatee has food, clothing, shelter, and health care. The demands of a conservator depend on the person’s ability to make decisions. In some cases, the conservator may need to make critical medical decisions on behalf of the person in their care.
- A conservator of the estate helps handle financial matters. They typically oversee bill payments and collecting income for the conservatee. Their duties may also include making a budget for expenses and protecting the individual’s assets. The conservator only handles the financial burden if the judge determines that the conservatee is incapable of doing it on their own. An account to the court detailing the management of the conservatee’s assets is also a duty of conservators of an estate.
Who Can File
Many people can file for a conservatorship. The court determines the conservator based on the best interests of the conservatee. If the individual has the mental and physical ability to object or express their preference, the court will appoint a conservator in their best interests.
People who can file for a conservatorship include:
- The spouse or domestic partner
- A relative
- Any interested state or local entity or agency
- Any interested person or friend
- The proposed conservatee
The court may provide a list of preferences approved by the court if the conservatee cannot nominate someone. Ultimately, the judge chooses the conservator using their best judgment, and he or she will base their final decision on the best interests of the individual in need of care.
The Court Process
Establishing conservatorship is a long and arduous process. If you or someone you know is considering a conservatorship, make sure it is the best option for the situation. Conservatorships are not to be taken lightly. Guardians and conservators should understand the weight of their responsibilities and work to create a safe environment for the individual in their care.
Petitions for conservatorships include information about the proposed conservatee and their situation. The petition is the first step in requesting a conservatorship from court. The court evaluates the petition and decides whether the conservatorship is granted or not.
Information needed to file a petition:
- Identification (birth certificate, Social Security card, etc.)
- Regional center reports when applicable
- Power of attorney or trust documents
- Contact information for relatives
- Personal physicians and medical information
The petition should also include detailed information about the proposed conservator. The petitioner must file the petition with the court clerk and pay the filing fee. You may request a fee waiver if you meet specific requirements.
Once the petitioner has filed, the clerk will select a date for the hearing. In the meantime, the conservatee and their relatives will be notificatied of the petition. The petitioner cannot deliver a copy to the individual or their relatives. Another person selected by the petitioner must provide the petition.
After the proposed conservatee and their family receive the petition, the judge will assign a court investigator to speak with friends and family members close to the person. Their goal is to ascertain the mental and physical fitness of the individual and details about their estate.
The conservatee must attend the hearing unless they are unable. The goal of the hearing is to determine if everyone involved received notification of the petition. The judge may also decide to recommend legal representation for the conservatee. Suppose the judge decides to grant the conservatorship; in that case, the proposed conservator may then take up their position and report to the court for regular reviews and meetings with the court investigator.
If a conservatee has immediate needs that cannot wait until the hearing, the judge may appoint a temporary conservator. The judge also assigns one if a conservator leaves and a new one is not yet selected. Temporary conservatorships usually last for a fixed period. Their purpose is to ensure the temporary care and support of the individual and manage their finances.
Temporary conservators may not move the individual in their care to a new residence. They cannot sell the conservatee’s home or assets. Temporary conservators serve a short-term role, and they must assist the individual when necessary rather than taking over as a full-time conservator. You can request a temporary conservator as part of a general conservatorship case. If the conservatee needs immediate medical assistance, contact emergency services.
Help for Your Conservatorship Case
Conservatorships have their place and can provide quality care for individuals in need. They can also be harmful to the conservatee if the situation is abusive or exploitive. The best option for ensuring a safe conservatorship is to consult an experienced attorney.
The Law Offices of James C. Shields has over two decades of legal experience. We understand how complex conservatorships can be, and we cater to the unique needs of our clients by providing ethical and well-respected legal counsel.
Call us at (310) 626-4404 or visit us online to schedule a free consultation today.