Conservatorships

In California, a conservatorship is a legal proceeding where a court appoints a person to protect and care for another person or their estate. The person appointed by the court is called the “conservator” and they owe duties to the person whose lives or estate they manage—called the “conservatee.”

Two of the most common types of conservatorships are: (1) a conservatorship of the person, and (2) a conservatorship of the estate. In a conservatorship of the person, a conservator is appointed to properly provide for the conservatee’s physical health, food, clothing, or shelter needs. In a conservatorship of the estate, the conservator is appointed to manage a conservatee’s financial resources or to help them resist fraud or undue influence.

A conservatorship, which is normally limited to adults, is distinguishable from a guardianship, which is normally limited to minors.

There are several types of conservatorship, several duties are expected of the conservator and the conservatorship court process is complicated, technical and it is recommended that you seek the advice of an experienced attorney.

Proper estate planning can help avoid many unnecessary and costly conservatorship proceedings. A revocable living trust, a durable power of attorney, and an advance health care directive can all be used together in a comprehensive estate plan to maximize benefits for people that plan ahead.

In a revocable living trust, the owner of property (called the “settlor”) gives their property to another person (called the “trustee”) to hold and manage in trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries of the trust. Often, the settlor is the first trustee and one of the beneficiaries of the revocable living trust. Importantly, the trustee owes fiduciary duties to the settlor during their life, and the beneficiaries.

By arranging property ownership in a revocable living trust, the settlor can ensure that, when they are no longer able to make decisions concerning their financial care or the management of their assets, a successor trustee of their choosing will take over, instead of a court-appointed conservator. A properly drafted and funded revocable living trust, therefore, can provide significant benefits to those who plan ahead.

In order to take advantage of the benefits of estate planning, however, you must plan ahead. If you would like to discuss these issues further, feel free to contact Tamara L. Harper.

Useful links:

http://www.ventura.courts.ca.gov/conservatorship.html
http://www.ventura.courts.ca.gov/form_packets/Conservatorship.pdf
http://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm
http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-conservatorship.htm