If the time has come for you to determine how to help a loved one manage their affairs, and that will require you to obtain formal control and management of their finances and medical care, you may be considering a conservatorship. In California, a conservatorship is much like a guardianship, but it only applies to adults who are in need of support and protection. A conservator maintains the important fiduciary duty of acting only in the best interest of the conservatee. A conservatorship is a very formal arrangement, overseen by the court. But, there are alternatives to conservatorship in California.
The ability to comprehend and communicate
The specific alternatives that are available for you and your loved one depend on whether the adult in need is still able to comprehend and communicate his or her wishes. Many of the options available require the adult to be able to express their needs and wishes to a lawyer, for instance. There are different alternatives for those adults who are no longer able to understand or communicate with others.
Options for caring for adults who can comprehend and communicate
There are at least two alternatives to conservatorship in California, for those adults who can understand and communicate their needs: social services agencies and advance health care directives. In Los Angeles, there are many agencies available to help individuals with special needs, due to illness or disability. They will be assigned a case manager, which is typically a social worker or nurse, who will first determine to what extent they need assistance. The case manager meets with the adult frequently to see what they need, arrange for meals, housekeeping, transportation for medical treatment and personal care in the home, if necessary.
An Advance Health Care Directive, (AHCD) is a form that can be completed by the adult, as long as they are competent to do so, which identifies the type of medical treatment they are willing to receive if they become gravely ill, in other words, what type of lifesaving measures they want to be taken.
Caring for adults who cannot comprehend or communicate
If an adult is unable to execute an Advance Health Care Directive, California laws allow health care professionals, in the nursing home setting, to make medical decisions on behalf of adults who have no one to help them. In other situations, the court will make medical decisions, or appoint someone specifically for that task. This often occurs when, for example, a hospital needs to make changes to the current medical treatment for someone who is unable to give consent and does not have a conservator.
Financial decisions for adults who can comprehend and communicate
There are several options for adults who can still comprehend and communicate, when it comes to their financial affairs. Adults can set up joint bank accounts with someone they trust to handle their financial matters. They can also execute either a general or limited power of attorney over their finances. Most banks and other financial institutions have power of attorney forms they required. The drawback of a power of attorney is that, if the adult becomes incapacitated and loses the ability to make their own decisions, the power of attorney is no longer valid. The solution is a durable power of attorney, which remains in effect even after the individual becomes incapacitated.
If you have questions regarding Conservatorships, or any other incapacity planning needs, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (301) 337-7696.