Understanding the Role of a Conservator

A conservatorship is a legal concept in which the financial affairs of an incapacitated person, or even the regular affairs of their daily life, are overseen by someone else. That other person is called a “conservator” and has to be appointed by a judge. Within a conservatorship, the incapacitated person is referred to as a “conservatee” or a “ward.”

How do I become a conservator?

If you are concerned about the wellbeing of a loved one who is incapacitated, whether it be due to old age or other physical or mental limitations, you can file a petition with the probate division of Superior Court to establish a conservatorship for that person.

Are all conservatorships the same?

No! There are different types of conservatorship and which is appropriate for any given situation will depend on the severity of the conservatee’s mental and physical condition. To put it simply, there are limited conservatorships, which are used for the developmentally disabled, and allow the conservatee to retain whatever rights they are capable of exercising. Most other situations call for a general conservatorship. Finally, in rare cases, such as when the conservatee suffers from severe alcoholism, a Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) conservatorship may be appropriate. LPS conservatorships generally have to be recommended for patients in mental health facilities by the staff.

What are the responsibilities of a conservator?

As stated above, not all conservatorships are the same. However, common duties include using the conservatee’s money to pay their bills, ensuring that their income taxes are filed and paid, and maintaining contact with the conservatee’s financial institutions so that they can deal with any issues that arise. If the conservatee has considerable assets, the conservator may make investment decisions on their behalf.   The conservatorship may also authorize a conservator to make decisions about the conservatee’s care and safety.

Conservators must also keep a record of all actions they take on behalf of their conservatee. Their accounts will need to be filed with the courts on a yearly basis. This ensures that the conservator makes sound, responsible decisions intended to benefit the conservatee. 

Who can answer further questions about conservatorships or help me set one up for my incapacitated loved one?

At Solan, Park & Robello, we understand how stressful it can be when your loved one becomes incapacitated without having set up a trust or authorized someone to make decisions on their behalf in advance. We understand how much it means to you to protect them and their estate. We can initiate conservatorship proceedings, oppose or monitor their progress, and manage all matters that come up during a conservatorship, all the while keeping one goal in mind: the best interests of your loved one. We are also more than willing to discuss your options with you and answer any questions you may have about conservatorships. Contact us today at (415) 777-3300.

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Solan, Park & Robello

Solan, Park & Robello is a full-service probate and estate planning firm offering experienced counsel in a wide range of estate planning matters—from preparation to administration to litigation.

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