When someone can no longer care for himself, or their estate is in disarray, a conservatorship is granted by a court to a caregiver or to a guardian. This is a pretty drastic action, but it’s usually necessary when nothing was arranged in advance, such as a trust, powers of attorney, or healthcare directives.
The San Diego Union-Tribune’s recent article asks, “What is conservatorship and how do I get it? According to the article, the San Diego Superior Court website conservatorship page has an overview of the types of conservatorships available. It also contains downloadable forms, links, FAQs, and an outline of steps required to set up a conservatorship. Something similar to this service may be found on the California Courts website.
Seeking conservatorship is pretty much the point of last resort. A conservatorship of an estate can be avoided, if a person prepares in advance and creates a trust and arranges for appropriate powers of attorney with family members. These can be used without court intervention.
However, setting up a conservatorship for a person may be unavoidable, if a parent or other loved one—even a person who’s signed an advanced care directive and appointed an agent for power of attorney—becomes uncooperative, refuses to accept help, won’t go to a doctor, doesn’t eat properly, fails to maintain appropriate personal hygiene, or has become the victim of a scam artist.
Getting a conservatorship can be difficult, especially if the individual requiring assistance refuses and challenges the action in court. In that instance, they may hire an attorney of their own, or receive a court-appointed lawyer, to fight this.
When a conservatorship of a person or estate is granted, it is not the end of the work for a conservator. In both situations, the court will follow up with investigator visits to make sure the conservatee or the estate are being cared for or managed properly. In the case of a conservatorship of an estate, there must be an accounting of all assets.
Talk to an experienced elder law attorney and do some advance planning, long before you need help. This can avoid issues later that would require any type of conservatorship.
Have your attorney create the documents, so that court action and drawn-out and costly legal actions aren’t required. This could include placing assets in a trust, setting up children with powers of attorney, naming an agent and writing an advance health-care directive.
Reference: San Diego Union-Tribune (April 25, 2018) “What is conservatorship and how do I get it?