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Understanding a California Conservatorship

With America's elderly population living longer than ever before thanks to advances in science and modern medicine, elderly adults are facing issues that they rarely faced in the past because they died younger. One such issue involves incapacitation. When an elderly adult is no longer capable of physically caring for him or herself or when he or she can no longer handle their own finances, they may need someone else to handle one or more of these areas for them.

In California a conservatorship is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or an organization (referred to as the conservator) to care for another adult (the conservatee) who is not capable of caring for himself or herself or managing his or her own finances.

Probate conservatorships are based on the laws covered in the California Probate Code, they also happen to be the most common type of conservatorship. Probate conservatorships can include:

  • General Conservatorships – These types of conservatorships are for adults who are unable to take care of their own finances. While these are commonly used for elderly adults, they can be for adults of any age who have been seriously injured or impaired due to something such as a car accident.
  • Limited Conservatorships – These are for adults with developmental disabilities who are not able to fully care for themselves or manage their money. Conservatees in limited conservatorships do not need the higher level of care that general conservatorships require.

Essentially, a probate court can appoint a conservator of the person or a conservator of the estate, or both, depending on the needs of the conservatee. A conservator of the person is responsible for ensuring that the conservatee has proper food, clothing, shelter and health care.

A conservator of the estate handles the conservatee's financial matters such as paying their bills and collecting the person's income. It will be up to the judge to decide if the conservatee can or cannot do it.

When someone is appointed as a conservator, it does not necessarily make them the conservator of the estate. If someone wishes to be the conservator of the person and the estate, then he or she will have to petition the court to be both.

To learn more about conservatorship, we urge you to speak directly with Whittier estate planning attorney Mary E. Mullin. We can be reached at (562) 283-5507 for a free case evaluation.