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What Are Conservatorships and Who Might Benefit From Them?

High-profile cases involving celebrity conservatorships have received substantial media attention in the past few years. Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes achieved stardom and fortune in their teens, but as adults they lost the legal authority to control certain aspects of their lives. This triggered numerous protests from fans and led some people to wonder if the standards for establishing a conservatorship might require adjustment.

Following extensive legal wrangling, Spears and Bynes both had their conservatorships lifted, after 13 and nine years, respectively. Though these situations seem to be resolved, questions about conservatorships remain, and not just from wealthy celebrities and their families. Anyone who has a serious concern about a loved one’s ability to care for themselves might benefit from a conversation with an experienced attorney about assuming legal authority for someone who needs help.

You might decide to pursue a conservatorship of the person for someone who has a severe, permanent disability and cannot meet their daily care needs. If granted, the person for whom you assume legal authority is known as a conservatee and you would be responsible for seeing that they have a suitable residence, adequate medical care and other necessities. While some people might refer to this arrangement as guardianship, California limits that term to arrangements involving minor children. 

California law allows for general conservatorships, which grant authority over both the conservatee’s personal affairs and financial affairs. In some circumstances, a court will grant authority over certain aspects of a conservatee’s affairs. For example, someone might create a conservatorship of the estate only, which would give the conservator authority to handle financial matters for an elderly relative who is no longer capable of doing so.  A conservator can also seek to establish a conservatorship of the person only to handle matters relating to the conservatee’s medical and personal needs.

A relative or interested friend can file for a probate conservatorship. In the petition, you should include medical evidence and other information to demonstrate why establishing the conservatorship is in the proposed conservatee’s best interest. This is particularly important in situations where the individual you are seeking to protect opposes the creation of the conservatorship. You should also include information as to why conservatorship is the correct solution rather than a less comprehensive option, such as a power of attorney grant.

Favaro, Lavezzo, Gill, Caretti & Heppell, PC advises clients on California conservatorships and guardianships. Please call 707-674-6057 or contact us online to schedule a consultation regarding your circumstances and legal options. Our offices are in Vallejo and Fairfield.