What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship, or “guardianship of the estate,” grants another individual the legal right to make decisions for you in matters relating to your finances or assets.

Conservatorships are required when:

  1. Physical or mental handicap render an individual incapable of managing their own financial affairs
  2. No other individual has been authorized to assume responsibility for the assets and finances of the incapacitated individual
  3. Other types of assistance will not properly protect the individual

How does the court choose a conservator?

The process involved in choosing a conservator varies depending on jurisdiction. In areas like Pasadena, the process occurs as follows:

A concerned individual will file a petition with the probate court, normally in the jurisdiction where the incapacitated individual is a resident. The petition often comes with different types of evidence including declarations, affidavits, and medical reports.

Next, the court will appoint a “guardian ad litem” to provide an independent report regarding the welfare and status of the incapacitated individual. This report may consist of meetings with doctors, personal evaluations, and a review of other records available.

If the incapacitated individual believes that they are still capable of handling their own affairs, they may contest the appointment of a conservator, and request a trial. The burden of proof is on the individual that petitioned the court for conservatorship to show that it is warranted.

If a conservator is appointed, the judge will issue the conservator letters of authority that will allow the conservator to act on the behalf of the now legally incapacitated person.

Can I take any steps to determine who will take care of me ahead of time, rather than having the court choose?

With proper planning, many of the difficulties involved with a conservatorship can be avoided. For financial decisions, a properly drawn up Power of Attorney will allow the probate judge to look at your wishes, and make determinations in accordance with those wishes, rather than a protracted, informal court proceeding, where your desires may not be met.

Other steps such as placing property in a living trust or jointly titling bank accounts or other property may also serve a similar function that would allow an inexpensive alternative to conservatorship proceedings.

What is the difference between a conservatorship and a guardianship?

Conservatorships are usually for adults who cannot care for themselves because of physical or mental limitations, and are normally arranged after a person turns 18 years of age. A guardianship is for minors under the age of 18. Guardianships are necessary for all minor children whose parents cannot care for them regardless of whether that child has any physical and mental limitations.

Estate Law

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Lee Green & Stewart

Attorneys at Law

301 E Colorado Blvd, Suite 705
Pasadena CA 91101-1911

(800) 985-9713 (tel)
(626) 768-3394 (fax)

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