If you have an adult loved one who is unable to safely care for himself and/or make decisions for himself it may be time to consider petitioning to become the individual’s legal guardian. In California, a guardian is referred to as a “conservator” and may be named as conservator of the estate, the person, or both. Although the decision to seek conservatorship is typically not an easy decision to make, failing to step in could result in physical harm to your loved one or could leave your loved one open to victimization by unscrupulous predators who prey on the elderly or disabled. A conservator may also be appointed for a minor child whose parents are unable, or unwilling, to care for the child.

Conservator of the Person

A conservator of the person may be needed if an individual, referred to as the “ward” or “protected person”, is unable to safely make daily decisions. As conservator of the person you might be entitled to make decisions such as where the protected person will live, what doctor he or she will treat with, and what type of recreation the ward will enjoy.

Conservator of the Estate

A conservator if the estate is appointed if the protected person needs assistance managing his or her finances and assets. As conservator of the estate of the ward you might pay the ward’s bills, manage assets owned by the protected person, and oversee investments.

Petitioning to become a Conservator in California

Becoming a conservator for an adult in California is typically a long and often complex process. Because a conservatorship, by its very nature, strips the ward of a significant amount of independence the law requires a judge to determine if a conservator is needed and the extent of the conservator’s authority if one is warranted. A judge must then decide if the individual seeking conservatorship (the “Petitioner”) is an appropriate choice.

To begin the conservatorship process you must file a petition with the appropriate court setting forth the reasons why a conservator is needed and why you would be a good choice as conservator. A number of people, including the proposed ward, are entitled to notification of the proceedings and may file an official objection. The court will also appoint an investigator to interview the proposed ward and those close to him or her to help the court determine if a conservatorship is indeed needed. Finally, the court will set a hearing date to hear testimony and review evidence regarding the petition before making a decision.

Letters of Conservatorship

If the court decides that a conservator is needed the court must then decide which type is needed and what authority will be granted to the conservator. The court is required to use the least restrictive means available, meaning that the court will only grant a conservator authority that is absolutely necessary to protect the ward and/or the estate of the ward. The court may grant you general or limited conservatorship. If you are granted only limited conservatorship your “Letters of Conservatorship” will explain exactly what authority you have over the ward or the estate of the ward.

Guardianship/Conservatorship of a Minor

A minor child may need a conservator if the child’s parent is unable, or unwilling, to care for the child. Typically, a family member steps in and offers to care for the child. If you find yourself in this position it is best to legalize the arrangement by petitioning to be the child’s conservator. Unlike adoption, a parent does not necessarily give up parental rights when a conservator is appointed. In fact, the parent may remain financially responsible for supporting the child; however, the conservator will have the legal authority to make decisions for the child and to manage the child’s estate.

The guardianship/conservatorship attorneys at Sowards Law Firm understand the emotional aspect of making decisions relating to conservatorship of an adult or a child. That emotional aspect makes it even more important that you retain the services of a competent and compassionate attorney from Sowards Law Firm to guide you through the process. To get started on your San Leandro or Redwood City area conservatorship, contact the firm today by calling 408-371-6000.