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Conservatorship in California

Conservatorship is a court proceeding when a judge assigns an entity or individual to manage the financial affairs and exercise the legal rights of a mentally ill person.

The court refers to the person managing the legal rights and finances for the disordered person as the “conservator.”  The disabled person is known as the “conservatee”.

In California, the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act governs the involuntary treatment of the mentally ill person. The act has a goal ending the indefinite and inappropriate commitment of the mentally ill, providing adequate evaluation and treatment to a person with serious mental disorders, protecting and guaranteeing and public safety, and providing supervision, individualized treatment, and placement services for the disabled person through a conservatorship program.

Who Can Become a Conservator in California?

Usually, a conservator is a spouse, child, domestic partner, relative, friend, or neighbor of a disabled person. Although conservatorship law prefers a family member of the conservatee, in some cases the court can appoint professional conservators, government, or non-profits agencies.

Essential Factual Elements of Conservatorship

According to CACI 400 to succeed on the claim, the petitioner must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the following elements:

  • The respondent has a mental disorder or is impaired by chronic alcoholism
  • The respondent is gravely disabled as a result of the mental disorder or chronic alcoholism
  • The respondent is unable or unwilling or unable voluntarily to accept meaningful treatment.

Types of Conservatorship

  1. Probate Conservatorships

Probate conservatorships includes:

  • General Conservatorships: This is a conservatorship of adults who aren’t able to take care of themselves or their finances. Usually, these conservatees are elderly people, but there also can be younger people who have been seriously impaired, for example in a car accident.
  • Limited Conservatorships. These conservatorships are for adults with developmental disabilities who are not able to fully care for themselves or their finances. This type of conservatorships doesn’t need a higher level of care as in the case of general conservatorships.
  1. Lanterman-Petris-Short Conservatorships

Lanterman-Petris-Short conservatorship is issued to care for adults who have serious mental health illnesses and need special care. This type of conservatorship is generally used for people who require extensive mental health treatment and need very restrictive living arrangements. Lanterman-Petris-Short conservatorships must be started by a local government agency.

Duties of Conservatorship

Conservators have multiple duties to perform for taking care of the conservatee’s needs and here is the list of some duties a conservator may perform.

  • Assessing the status of real estate and personal property
  • Filing yearly plans for the conservatee’s care
  • Planning appropriate care for the conservatee and getting an appropriate residence for him
  • Paying outstanding bills and filing income tax returns and for the conservatee
  • Filing an inventory of the assets

How Are Conservatorships Terminated?

Typically, termination of the conservatorship happens when the conservatee passes away. In case the conservatee doesn’t meet the standards for having a conservator, a court can cancel the appointment. Additionally, the conservatee can petition a court with the assistance of a conservatorship lawyer in case he believes he has strong evidence that he is better off without that care.

Conservatorship Versus Guardianship

In California, conservatorships are protective court procedures for adults, while guardianships protect minors.

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