What is a Limited Conservatorship?
In General, the purpose of a limited conservatorship is to protect adults with developmental disabilities from harm or exploitation while allowing for the development of maximum self-reliance and independence.
Upon attaining the age of 18, a child will be considered a legal adult, gaining the authority to make his or her own life decisions regardless of any cognitive or developmental disability. A parent will no longer have the legal authority to make decisions for his or her child regarding health care, education, finances, etc., unless a limited conservatorship is established.
A limited conservatorship is established through a court proceeding, where the judge will grant an individual or individuals (called a conservator) legal responsibility for the individual with a developmental disability (called a conservatee).
There are two types of limited conservatorships:
- A limited conservatorship of the person is where a conservator cares for and protects the conservatee and provides for the conservatee’s needs associated with daily life.
- A limited conservatorship of the estate is where a conservator handles the conservatee’s financial matters, such as paying bills and managing investments, if the conservatee has an estate.
Do I Need A Limited Conservatorship Of The Estate?
You do not need a conservatorship of the estate if:
- the developmentally disabled adult you care for gets public assistance, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security (SSA) but has no other assets, or
- the developmentally disabled adult earns a wage.
Who Decides If The Adult Is Developmentally Disabled?
The Regional Center in your community will test the proposed conservatee to see if she/he is develop-mentally disabled. If the Regional Center accepted the person as a consumer (or client) before age eighteen (18), then she/he automatically qualifies as a person with a developmental disability. But, if the person has never been tested or accepted as a regional center consumer, she/he must be tested.
To be an eligible developmental disability, the disability must have originated before the age of 18, be likely to continue indefinitely, and constitute a substantial handicap. The eligible conditions are mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and the “fifth category”. (See the Regional Center for more information on this category).
Conditions which are solely psychiatric disorders, solely learning disabilities, or solely physical in nature are specifically excluded.
If the Regional Center feels that individual does not qualify as a person with a developmental disability, and you disagree, you can appeal to the Area Board in your region (created by the state legislature to advocate for the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities).
When Should I Apply For Limited Conservatorship?
It is best to start the process about 6 months before the person’s 18th birthday. Once the paperwork is filed with the court, it can take 10-12 weeks or longer for the court to process the paperwork. The conservatorship will be effective upon the conservatee’s 18th birthday. However, a limited conservatorship can be established at any time after the person with the developmental disability has attained the age of 18.
Who Can Be Appointed As Limited Conservator?
Any adult can file for conservatorship. Conservators are usually parents, sisters, or brothers, but any responsible adult can act as conservator. There can be more than one limited conservator.
When Is A Bond Required?
A bond is required in most conservatorships of the estate to guarantee proper performance of the duties of the conservator of the estate. If you are appointed only as conservator of the person you need not file a bond unless required by the court.
What Kind Of Decisions Can A Limited Conservator Make?
AA limited conservator’s duty is to help the limited conservatee develop maximum self-reliance and independence. Because developmentally disabled adults can usually do many things on their own, the judge will only give the limited conservator power to do things the conservatee cannot do without help.
After the hearing the limited conservator’s "Letters of Conservatorship" and the “Order Appointing Probate Conservator” will list the exact areas (powers) in which the limited conservator is authorized to act.
What Powers Can A Limited Conservator Ask For?
A limited conservator may ask the court for the following seven (7) powers:
- To fix the conservatee’s residence or dwelling
- To have access to the conservatee’s confidential records or papers
- To consent or withhold consent to the conservatee’s marriage
- To control the right of the conservatee to enter into contracts
- To give or withhold medical consent on behalf of the conservatee
- To restrict the conservatee’s social and sexual contacts and relationships
- To make all decisions concerning the education of the conservatee
What Are The Responsibilities Of A Limited Conservator?
As a limited conservator of the person, you must take care of the conservatee’s:
For more information refer to the Handbook for Conservators, published by the Judicial Council of California and available at the Probate Clerk’s window for a fee. The handbook is also available on the internet: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/selfhelp/seniors/handbook.htm
How Long Will I Be A Conservator?
The limited conservatorship lasts for the lifetime of the conservatee or the lifetime of the conservator (whichever is shorter) unless the court orders otherwise. Also, if a court investigator’s report or other information suggests a conservator is not acting in the best interests of the conservatee, the judge will issue an order to show cause. If this happens, there will be a court hearing to decide if the conservator should be removed and replaced.
This is not a criminal hearing, but, if a conservator is suspected of taking physical or financial advantage of a conservatee, the State can file criminal charges.