Conservatorship is the court process by which a judge appoints another person or organization (the "conservator") to manage the affairs of another adult person (the "conservatee") that is not able to take care of themselves or their finances.
The duties of a conservator can include:
- Arranging for the conservatee's care and protection;
- Deciding where the conservatee will live;
- Making decisions about health care ,food, clothes, personal care, housekeeping, transportation, and recreation;
- Managing the conservatee's finances;
- Protecting the conservatee's income and property;
- Making sure the conservatee's bills are paid and taxes are filed and paid on time;
- Investing the conservatee's money;
- Making sure the conservatee gets all the benefits he or she is eligible for;
- Keeping exact financial records; and
- Making regular reports of the financial accounts to the court and other interested persons.
Conservatee's retain the following rights:
- Be treated with understanding and respect;
- Have their wishes considered; and
- Be well cared for.
- Control their own salary;
- Make or change their will;
- Get married;
- Get mail;
- Have a lawyer;
- Ask a judge to change conservators or end the conservatorship;
- Vote, unless a judge says they're not able to;
- Control personal spending money if a judge allows them to have such an allowance; and
- Make their own health-care decisions, unless a judge gives that right to a conservator.
Once a petition for conservatorship has been filed, the Court will set the matter for hearing. A court investigator is assigned to interview all persons who are the subject of a petition for conservatorship before the first hearing is held. The court investigator may interview numerous family members, neighbors and others to provide as much information as possible to the Court to assist in making a determination as to whether to grant the conservatorship. When interviewing the proposed conservatee, the purpose of the interview is to determine whether the person understands the proceedings or has any objections to them.
California law requires court investigators to carefully assess the living situations, general health and well-being, and finances of conservatees or potential conservatees to ensure that conservators are acting in the best interests of conservatees. Investigators must visit conservatees regularly, review health and medical records, examine financial accountings prepared by conservators, and prepare reports for the Court on their findings. After a conservatorship appointment has been made, court investigators regularly interview both the conservator and the conservatee and report to the Court about the well-being of the conservatee and whether the conservatee's estate is being properly managed. Investigators review the accountings submitted at regular intervals by the conservator to ensure that the accountings appear reasonable and accurate.
A conservatorship of the person ends when the conservatee dies or the conservatee regains the ability to handle his or her own personal/financial affairs. A conservatorship of the estate ends when the estate runs out of money.
Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS) Conservatorships are established to provide help for persons who suffer from a mental disorder or chronic alcoholism. These conservatees may be a danger to themselves or others. The conservator is responsible for helping to find a placement and mental health treatment for the conservatee who is gravely disabled.
An LPS conservatorship is used only when the person needs mental health treatment but cannot or will not accept it voluntarily. Because the person subject to an LPS conservatorship may be placed in a locked facility, there are special protections to ensure that the conservatee's civil rights are protected. By law, these cases are treated as confidential.