What is a Conservatorship?

A conservatorship is a court proceeding in which the judge appoints someone (the “conservator”) to act on behalf of a disabled person (the “conservatee.”)

  • The conservatorship can be over the “estate” only, meaning that the conservator will make all of the conservatee’s financial decisions and manage the conservatee’s property.
  • The conservatorship can be over the “person” only, meaning that the conservator will make all decisions about where the conservatee lives.
  • Alternatively, the conservatorship may be over the “person” and “estate” meaning that the conservator controls all aspects of the conservatee’s life and financial affairs.

Special powers may be granted to the conservator in specific circumstances.  For example, if the conservatee is so disabled that he or she cannot make medical decisions, the conservator will be granted authority to give consent for medical treatment.  If a conservatee has dementia, the conservator may be given specific authority to consent to dementia medication or admission of the conservatee to a locked facility to deal with wandering.

In California, if a conservatee has psychiatric problems other than dementia and is determined to be gravely disabled, a “Lanterman Petris Short” (known as an “LSP”) conservatorship can be initiated by the County for authority to commit the person to a psychiatric hospital and administer psychotropic medication.

Because conservatorships require the involvement of the courts, they can be expensive and time consuming. A conservatorship over the estate can be avoided with a simple Durable Power of Attorney for Finances.  A conservatorship over the person can be avoided in some cases with a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.  With those powers of attorney, a trusted agent can do much of what a court appointed conservator could do without going to court, except that an agent under a power of attorney cannot commit someone to a psychiatric facility, authorize the administration of psychotropic medication, or place someone in a locked facility against their will.

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