Frequently Asked Questions about Conservatorship
What is Conservatorship?
A Conservatorship is a court proceeding in which a Judge appoints a family member, friend or other responsible person (conservator) to care for another adult (conservatee) who cannot care for themselves and/or their finances.
Conservatorship of the Person
In a Conservatorship of the Person, the conservator is responsible for making sure that the conservatee has proper food, clothing, shelter, and health care. Depending on the conservatee’s ability to understand and make decisions, the conservator may need to make important medical choices for him or her.
Conservatorship of the Estate
In a Conservatorship of the Estate, the conservator handles the conservatee’s financial matters. These duties include managing the conservatee’s finances, protecting income and property, paying bills, making investments, preparing and filing taxes on behalf of the conservatee. The conservator is also required to make regular reports of the financial account to the courts and other interested parties.
General Conservatorship v. Limited Conservatorship
General Conservatorships are often for elderly people, but can also be younger people who have been seriously impaired, like in a car accident, for example.
Limited Conservatorships are for adults with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves or their finances. Conservatees in Limited Conservatorships do not need the higher level of care that conservatees in General Conservatorships need.
What is a Temporary Conservatorship?
A temporary conservatorship may be set up when a person needs immediate help. A judge, upon finding of good cause, may appoint a temporary conservator of the person or of the estate, or both, for a specific period until a permanent conservator can be appointed. A temporary conservator arranges for temporary care, protection, and support of the conservatee and protects the conservatee's property from loss or damage. A temporary conservator may also be appointed to fill in between permanent conservators, if, for example, the permanent conservator dies or the judge has ordered his or her removal. The authority of a temporary conservator is much more limited than a permanent conservator.
What are the alternatives to a Conservatorship?
If the only purpose of the temporary conservatorship is to designate an individual to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person, a temporary conservatorship may not be needed. Certain individuals, such as an incapacitated person's spouse or the public guardian, can petition the court for authority to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual. (Prob. Code §3200).
What type of investigation is involved with becoming a Conservator?
When a Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator is filed, the Court will determine if an investigation is required prior to the hearing. If one is required, a Court Investigator will be assigned to the case and will contact the parties.
In Limited Conservatorships and General Conservatorships where the Petition is alleging that the proposed conservatee has Major Neurocognitive Disorder (F.K.A. Dementia), the Court will appoint an Attorney to represent the proposed conservatee. The Court Appointed Attorney will contact the parties and prepare a report for the hearing.
After appointment, all Conservatorship cases are subject to periodic investigations by the Court Investigator. (Prob. Code §1850)
Forms for filing for Conservatorship
The following forms are required to start the Conservatorship proceedings:
The Court also offers the following self-help packets on Conservatorships of the Person, which include all of the required forms and information on how to file:
If the Court grants your Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator (JC Form #GC-310), you must complete and submit the following forms along with a copy of each form and a self-addressed and stamped envelope:
If the Court grants your Petition for Appointment of Temporary Conservator (JC Form #GC-111), you must complete and submit the following forms along with a copy of each form and a self-addressed and stamped envelope:
Conservatorship Filing Fees
There are courts costs – the court filing fee and the investigation fee. The current fee amounts can be found on the Court’s Fee Schedule located here.
If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you can request a Fee Waiver from the Court. The Fee Waiver Packet – Guardianships and Conservatorships (SDSC Form #PKT-041) must be completed and filed with your Petition.
What do I have to do after I fill out the forms?
- Once all forms have been completed, make two copies of each form and bring them all to the Probate Business Office. Click here to view business hours and location.
- The clerk will keep the original forms plus one set of copies and return the remaining set of copies to you. Your copies will be file stamped and a hearing date will be scheduled.
- Serve a copy of the filed paperwork upon the proposed conservatee and appropriate parties as required by law. Information regarding service can be found here.
- For Limited Conservatorships, a Court Appointed Attorney will contact you prior to the hearing to conduct an interview and prepare a report. For all other Conservatorships a Court Investigator will contact you prior to the hearing to conduct an interview and prepare a report.
- Review the Probate Examiner Notes two weeks prior to hearing. Information regarding the Probate Examiner Notes can be found here.
A general overview of the Conservatorship process can be found here.
Conservatorship Orientation Program
Effective April 19, 2005:
All conservators, excluding limited conservators of the person and Private Professional Conservators as defined by Prob. Code §2341 must complete an education class as ordered at the time of their appointment as conservator. Classes must be completed within six months of appointment as a conservator, and a certificate evidencing completion must be filed with the court. Classes must be designed to explain the duties and responsibilities of Conservator of the Person and/or Estate and include information on healthcare, safety, living arrangements, management of assets, accountings and other legal obligations. A list of providers is available here or in the Probate Business Office. Failure to complete this requirement may be grounds for removal as ordered by the court. In addition to removal, failure to comply with these requirements may result in the imposition of sanctions.
What if the Conservatee or I move/change contact information?
If you or the conservatee move residences, you must inform the court in writing as follows:
- Conservator: You must complete and file the Notice of Change of Address or Other Contact Information (JC Form #MC-040) with the Probate Business Office.
- Conservatee: You must complete and file the Pre-Move Notice of Proposed Change of Personal Residence of Conservatee or Ward (JC Form #GC-079) with the Probate Business Office prior to the physical move of the conservatee. Once the conservatee has physically moved to the new residence, you must complete and file the Post-Move Notice of Change of Residence of Conservatee or Ward (JC Form #GC-080) with the Probate Business Office. Both forms must be served on certain parties as indicated in the forms.
NOTE: If you want to move the conservatee outside of California, you must ask for the court’s permission before you can make the move. You must complete and file the Petition to Fix Residence Outside the State of California (JC Form #GC-085). After which, a hearing date will be set to determine if the court will allow the move out-of-state.
If the Conservator or Conservatee change telephone numbers, you must notify the court by filing the Notice of Change of Address or Other Contact Information (JC Form #MC-040) indicating the new telephone number.
Transfer/Registration of Conservatorships
The California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act, effective January 1, 2016, is a uniform law that provides a means to transfer a conservatorship proceeding from California to another state when the conservatee is to become a permanent resident of the other state. The law also provides for transfers of conservatorships from other states to California under the same circumstances.
This law also permits conservators appointed in other jurisdictions to register with a California court on behalf of their nonresident conservatees. Registration in California would permit the foreign conservator to act in this state – a useful power if, for example, a nonresident conservatee without capacity to consent to immediate medical treatment becomes ill while visiting relatives in California or owns California real property that must be sold, leased, or mortgaged. Registration provisions in the law of other jurisdictions may also permit California conservators to register their conservatorships in those jurisdictions.
Required forms for the Registration of a Conservatorship in California:
- Conservatorship Registration Cover Sheet and Attestation of Conservatee’s Non-Residence in California (JC Form #GC-360)
- Notice of Intent to Register Conservatorship (JC Form #GC-361)
- Conservatorship Registrant’s Acknowledgment of Receipt of Handbook for Conservators (JC Form #GC-362)
If you have a possible transfer or registration issue, either in or out of California, you may wish to seek the assistance of experienced counsel in all affected jurisdictions as the laws are complex.
Death of Conservatee
Upon the death of a conservatee, you must complete and file the Notice of the Conservatee’s Death (JC Form #GC-399) with the Probate Business Office. You must also serve a copy on all relatives who were initially served the Petition for Appointment of Conservator (JC Form #GC-310). If the conservatorship is of the person only, no further action is required after the Notice of Conservatee’s Death (JC Form #GC-399) has been filed.
NOTE: If there is a conservatorship of the estate, a final accounting must be filed before the conservator can be discharged. The final accounting is due 3 months after the Notice of Conservatee’s Death (JC Form #GC-399) has been filed.
What if I need legal advice?
Contact an attorney of your choice. If you need help locating an attorney in San Diego County, you may contact the Lawyer Referral & Information Service of the San Diego County Bar Association at 1-800-464-1529 or 619-231-8585. Their website can also be found here.
General Legal Information & Assistance Programs
- Legal Aid Society
The Legal Aid Society of San Diego offers a free conservatorship clinic for those who need assistance in a Conservatorship of the Person action or information about alternatives to Conservatorship. For more information, click here.