Initiating a Conservatorship

A conservatorship is initiated when the person desiring to assist the afflicted individual files a petition with the court to be appointed as the conservator of the individual’s person (to assist with providing food, clothing, and other personal needs, such as obtaining medical care) and/or conservator of the individual’s estate (to manage the individual’s financial affairs).

The Review Process

Because a conservatorship circumscribes the conserved individual’s rights to manage his or her own affairs, the court does not grant conservatorships lightly. As a result, a person seeking appointment as conservator must demonstrate the need for the conservatorship to the court by submitting physician declarations and other evidence to the court regarding the proposed conservatee’s impairment and the need for the conservatorship. The person seeking appointment must also undergo a background check to determine whether he or she is qualified and fit to serve as conservator. A court investigator will also perform an independent investigation as to the need for the conservatorship. The proposed conservatee is entitled to counsel in the proceedings, and the court will appoint counsel if the proposed conservatee does not already have an attorney representing him or her.

If the proposed conservatee does not object to the conservatorship, the court will grant the conservatorship once the need for the conservatorship is adequately demonstrated to the court. If the proposed conservatee does object to the conservatorship, a trial may be required before the court can determine if the conservatorship is indeed necessary.

Handle Proceedings Carefully

Conservatorship proceedings can be very involved and oftentimes require a delicate touch, as family relationships can be irrevocably damaged by such proceedings. A qualified attorney in this area will attempt to help his or her client obtain a favorable resolution of the matter in a manner which minimizes distress to the proposed conservatee or his or her family members.

The Duties of Conservatorship

Once a conservatorship is established, there are ongoing duties and reporting requirements for the conservator:

  • If there is a conservatorship of the estate, the conservator must file accountings with the court on a regular basis, to show how the conservatee’s assets are being managed.
  • If the conservatee’s assets must be sold, the conservator will have to obtain court approval before any sale can occur.
  • If the conservatee must be moved from his or her home, the conservator must follow certain legal procedures so that the court can be assured that the move is in the best interests of the conservatee.

Other Situations That May Require Conservatorship

While many conservatorships are established because the proposed conservatee has developed dementia or suffered some other significant mental or physical impairment, conservatorships are also required where the conservatee was born with a developmental disability that makes it difficult for him or her to handle personal and financial affairs after reaching the age of majority.

A special type of conservatorship, known as a limited conservatorship, was developed specifically for those situations where the proposed conservatee is developmentally disabled. A limited conservatorship provides the conservatee with specific assistance while promoting the conservatee’s ability to live as independently as possible; its purpose is to ensure that someone else has the legal authority to handle those tasks that the developmentally disabled individual cannot manage on their own.

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