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What is a conservatorship?

The process of estate planning is meant to provide people with control over both the disposition of their assets once they are gone as well as (if necessary) the management of their end-of-life affairs. Yet people cannot plan for the unexpected, and few anticipate never being able to make decisions for themselves. Yet if you have a loved one that has reached that point it may in their best interest for you to step in and seek that they be placed under the care of a conservator. 

A conservator is one empowered with the authority to make important decisions for another individual. Some may wonder how this particular type of authority differs from power of attorney. The main difference is that in the case of power of attorney, a person delegates decision-making authority themselves, whereas a conservatorship is created at the request of another. 

Does your loved one qualify to be placed under the care of a conservator? According to Section 1801 of California's Probate Code, the following individuals can be placed in a conservatorship: 

  • One who is unable to properly provide for their personal needs for physical health, food, clothing or shelter
  • One who is substantially unable to manage their financial resources or resist undue influence
  • A developmentally disabled adult

Conservatorships may be granted to varying degrees, with developmentally disabled adults often being made the wards of conservators to a limited extent. You or any responsible adult can serve as the conservator of your loved one. The state can even assign your loved one's care to a professional conservator if there are no immediate family members available to assume the role. Conservators are required to provide reports on the status of their wards, and they can be removed from their roles if they are suspected of abusing their authority. 

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