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By: Scott Grossman on September 15th, 2016

Loved Ones Needing Help May Require the Assistance of a Probate Conservator

When a loved one is struggling or unable to care for himself or manage his financial affairs, you may need to step in in order to take control over his estate. Many of the duties of a probate conservator are similar to the duties of a personal representative after a person passes away; however, the conservatorship is used while the person is alive, but in need of assistance. People who prepare estate plans often name an individual who should be appointed as conservator under these circumstances. To be appointed probate conservator of an estate, you need to petition the probate court and have a judge make a determination as to your loved one’s capabilities. If the court decides that your loved one is unable to care for himself or manage his own finances, a conservatorship may be awarded.

Types of Probate Conservatorships

Obtaining a conservatorship appointment is a more involved process than simply petitioning the probate court. It is important to understand that there are various types of conservatorships that can be obtained under the laws of the California Probate Code. Below is an overview of the three most common types of conservatorships:

  1. General conservatorships. For adults who cannot take care of themselves or their finances, people needing a general conservatorship are often elderly or are seriously impaired or suffering from serious illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  2. Limited conservatorships. Used for adults who have developmental disabilities and are unable to fully care for themselves or their finances, limited conservators do not provide as much oversight over the affairs of the individual as general conservators.
  3. Lanterman-Petris-Short conservatorships. Used for adults who have serious mental illnesses who need special care, these conservatorships are used less frequently than general or limited conservatorships, as they typically only apply to people who need restrictive living arrangements and require ongoing mental health treatment. Since the restrictions are so intensive, the conservatee cannot consent to the special living arrangement or treatment without first having an LPS conservator appointed.

Understanding which type of conservatorship is right for your loved one is an important step for ensuring that your loved one’s needs are properly met. Fortunately, you do not have to make this determination on your own. An experienced attorney can help guide you through the process of choosing an obtaining a conservatorship.

Conservator of the Person vs. Conservator of the Estate

When applying for a conservatorship, the probate court can appoint you as the conservator of the person or conservator of the person’s estate. In some cases, the court may appoint you as both. The determination is made based upon the needs of the conservatee. The following is an overview of the differences between these two types of appointments:

  1. If you are appointed probate conservator of the person, you are responsible for caring for and protecting the person because the judge has decided that the person is unable to do so for themselves. You are responsible for ensuring that that conservatee has proper food, clothing, shelter, and health care. If the person you are caring for is unable to make their own medical decisions, you may need to handle this important responsibility as well.
  2. If you are appointed probate conservator of the person’s estate, you are responsible for overseeing the conservatee’s financial matters. This includes tasks such as paying bills and collecting income. The judge will appoint a conservator of the estate if he or she determines that the conservatee is unable to do so on his own.

It is important to note that being appointed as conservator of the person or conservator of the estate alone does not automatically give you both authorities. Instead, you will need to petition the probate court if you want to be appointed as both. In some cases, you may find that when you first petitioned the probate court, you only needed one type of appointment but not the other. Later, you may find that you develop a need to have both. To obtain the second appointment, you can file a new petition for conservatorship with the court and make the appropriate request.

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