If someone in your life has trouble taking care of himself, then you may need to investigate seeking a guardianship or conservatorship. In California, these two terms refer to similar relationships but cover different kinds of people.
What Is a Conservatorship in California?
A conservatorship is a legally established relationship between a responsible person or organization (the “conservator”) and an adult (the “conservatee”) who cannot take care of himself or cannot manage his own financial matters. The conservator may manage personal care for the conservatee or handle his financial decisions and transactions. Scope of the conservator relationship depends on the court’s order.
A judge in court must officially appoint a conservator. The conservatee does not have to consent to the conservatorship, but he does have certain rights during the process. In addition, the court can modify or withdraw the conservatorship at any time.
People commonly need conservatorships if they:
- Have serious health issues such as dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Have special needs or a disability
- Are physically incapacitated
What Is a Guardianship in California?
A guardianship, similar to a conservatorship, is a legally established relationship between a minor under age 18 (the “ward”) and a responsible person or organization that is not the minor’s parent (the “guardian”). A guardian may have custody of a child, manage the child’s assets, or both. Like a conservator, the guardian is often responsible for managing the ward’s personal care, as well as meeting all of the child’s daily needs such as food, shelter, and education.
Guardianships, like conservatorships, must be ordered by the court. Someone in the minor’s family or the person who seeks to become guardian begins a guardianship in the probate court. (Alternatively, a guardianship might be established through the juvenile dependency court.)
Children need guardianships when people who are not their parents are taking care of them. The adults may need court orders to make decisions on the children’s behalf, enroll them in school, and complete other tasks. As a result, anyone who thinks they need to seek a guardianship or conservatorship may want to seek the help of a lawyer to go through the process.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.
For a related podcast, you can listen to Janet talk about issues relating to minor children and guardianships on NPR's Your Legal Rights.