Have you been told that you or your loved one needs a conservatorship?
It’s important to know that conservatorship is not the only way or to support and help an adult with disabilities! There are other options including Supported Decisionmaking. Need more information? Click here.
Conservatorship is a legal status, ordered by a judge, that limits the rights and responsibilities of an adult with disabilities (the conservatee) and appoints another person (the conservator) to oversee those rights and responsibilities. A conservatorship can only be established if the court believes that the conservatee is not capable of exercising their rights and responsibilities and taking care of their own needs.
A conserved person can effectively lose the right to choose where they live, whether they work or go to school, what kind of medical care they get, and what their personal relationships look like. It can interfere with the conservatee’s freedom and independence.
In California, there are two kinds of conservatorships. Both can limit a person’s autonomy over their personal care and decisions (“conservatorship of the person”) or over their financial matters and property (“conservatorship of the estate”).
Two Kinds of Conservatorships in California
The two kinds of conservatorship in California are:
Probate (Limited or General, see Cal. Probate Code §1800 et.seq.), and “LPS.”
Limited Probate Conservatorship is especially designed for adults with developmental disabilities and is limited so that the conservatee maintains as many rights and liberties as possible and can live as independently as possible. Limited Conservatorship is often considered by adults who are Regional Center clients and their families. See Cal. Probate Code §1801(d).
A limited conservator only has authority to act in the specific areas listed in the judge’s order. Those can include living arrangements, consenting to medical treatment, deciding on educational programs, or entering into contracts.
The court reviews limited conservatorships within the first year of appointment, and then every two years thereafter, unless the judge orders more frequent reviews. The court can change or terminate a limited conservatorship.
General Probate Conservatorship is for any adult who is adjudged unable to provide for their own care and safety. It affects a broad range of decisionmaking granted to the conservator. These conservatorships are often sought by family members of people who are older or have chronic physical or mental health impairment. The court will audit and review the conservatorship six months after appointment and every year therafter, and any interested person (like a friend, relative or service provider) can request that the court review the conservatorship at any time. The court can change or terminate the conservatorship.
LPS Conservatorship is named for California’s Lanterman-Petris-Short Act that established this special status for a person who can’t provide for their own care and safety because of chronic alcoholism or other mental illness. An LPS conservatorship is very restrictive, meaning it removes many of the conservatee’s rights, and is often used to place the conservatee in a hospital or treatment facility without their consent. This type of conservatorship expires after one year if the court does not renew it. See Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §5350.
Heather can help you explore options and set up a plan for Assisted Decisionmaking. Our office does not assist with petitions for conservatorship.
Most local courts publish handbooks and other information about conservatorship. In Los Angeles, Bet Tzedek Legal Services offers free workshops. If you can’t find the information you need, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.