At some point in your life, you may have to decide whether a loved one needs to have a conservator appointed to manage their personal affairs. When that time comes, it will be helpful to understand what a conservatorship in Los Angeles California entails. A conservatorship has to be established through a legal proceeding. The court must appoint someone to act as the decision maker for the person who needs protection (the “conservatee”).
Once the court has determined that the person is indeed incapacitated, which means incapable of making decisions on their own, a conservator can be appointed. The consequences of making this determination are serious because the conservatee will no longer have control over his or her own affairs.
Conservatorships should never be sought merely because a person makes a decision that others do not understand or agree with. Nor should they be sought because of a certain disability or medical diagnosis. Since the implications of a determination of incapacity are very serious, a conservatorship in Los Angeles California should only be sought when truly necessary.
What does a conservator do?
A conservator, even though court-appointed, is not free to take any actions he or she wants without limitation. The conservator’s job is to protect the conservatee and the conservatee’s assets. Therefore, a conservator must seek and obtain written permission from the court before making certain important decisions. For example, withholding life-saving medical procedures or moving the conservatee to a new residence, require prior court approval. Also, conservators are required to make annual reports to the court as to the status of the protected person and his or her assets and affairs.
A conservator has a fiduciary duty to only act on behalf of the conservatee, in the conservatee’s best interests. A conservator can decide how to spend the conservatee’s money, make living arrangements and determine appropriate medical treatment.
What if I have a loved one with a serious mental health illness?
California recognizes what is known as a Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship. LPS conservatorships are used to care for adults who need special care, like those with serious mental health illnesses. In most cases, these people need very restrictive living arrangements and require extensive mental health treatment. Conservatees in LPS conservatorships usually cannot or will not agree to treatment or special living arrangements on their own. LPS conservatorships are initiated by a local government agency.
Are there alternatives to establishing a General Conservatorship in Los Angeles California?
Appointment of a conservator deprives the protected person of the ability to make their own decisions. If any less restrictive alternative is available, which still provides the needed protection, that alternative should be considered first.
For example, in California a Limited Conservatorship is available for adults with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves or their finances. Those adults do not require a higher level of care provided by a General Conservatorship.
Some other examples of alternatives include joint bank accounts, revocable living trusts, protective orders, durable financial powers of attorney, or advance directives for health care. There are actually a wide variety of formal and informal tools available to protect a person’s assets without the necessity of declaring them incompetent. For more information regarding your options, please contact our office.