trusts & estates
special needs planning

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A conservatorship may be necessary when an adult is unable to care for themself or their assets. It is essentially a court-created guardianship of someone over 18.

We call the person benefiting from a conservatorship the "conservatee." The person taking care of the conservatee's physical and emotional welfare (i.e., the conservatee's "person") or their financial affairs (i.e., the conservatee's "estate") is known as the "conservator." A conservator legally assumes rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the conservatee.

There are a variety of circumstances where a conservatorship might be appropriate, including:

  • when a person with a developmental disability turns 18 and cannot make wise personal, financial, or medical decisions (a "limited conservatorship");
  • when an elderly person has developed dementia or is unable to resist the advances of an unscrupulous party (a "general conservatorship");
  • when an adult becomes incapacitated after an injury (also a "general conservatorship"); or
  • when an adult's mental health requires specific care (an "LPS conservatorship").

Establishing a Conservatorship


The first step in establishing a conservatorship is to file a petition in probate court. Because taking over the affairs of an adult is a serious matter, the court must be satisfied that the conservatorship is appropriate.

If the conservatorship is approved, the conservator must usually report to the court regularly about the health of the conservatee and how the conservator has handled the estate. Conservators can be compensated for their time and reimbursed for their expenses, but only when the court approves.

All of the petitions, reports and accountings are complex, which is why an attorney usually does them with the assistance of a competent probate paralegal. Establishing and maintaining a conservatorship is time-consuming and costly.

Conservatorships can be challenged. Sometimes a proposed conservatee will object to the arrangement and compel the court to appoint a separate attorney. There can also be disputes in families over who should be conservator. Unless settled, these disputes can result in trials before a judge or jury.

Alternatives to a Conservatorship

For most people, avoiding the time and expense of a conservatorship is as simple as having a well-drafted power of attorney and/or a quality living trust. But sometimes a conservatorship is the only way to protect someone's interests, such as, for example, when the conservatee has a developmental disability or has entered into a contract with an unscrupulous person.

For More Information

If you would like to know if a conservatorship is appropriate in your case, please contact paralegal Teri Jones in our office at 916.273.9040 or click here and complete our contact form. We will help you determine if we are good fit for your needs.

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