Helping someone who has become unable to take care of himself or herself anymore can feel uncertain and even scary. Often it is not clear that someone needs this help until the situation has escalated to a crisis because, for example, his house is in foreclosure for failing to make mortgage payments, he is not following the instructions of his doctor, or perhaps his acquaintances are manipulating him into giving them money.
If someone cannot take care of herself anymore, then that person is said to be incapacitated. A person might be incapacitated if, for example, she was in a car accident and now is in a coma, suffered a stroke, or has dementia, etc.
When someone becomes incapacitated without having done any estate planning like having a trust or powers of attorney often a conservatorship court proceeding is necessary to put someone in charge of all of the affairs of the incapacitated person.
Generally a conservatorship court proceeding lasts for the remainder of the incapacitated person’s life. A conservatorship court proceeding is much more than going to court one time. It normally requires going to court numerous times.
The first time at court is in the beginning requesting that the court appoint a certain person to be in charge of the incapacitated person.
Then normally at the end of the first year of the conservatorship that person files an accounting with the court explaining precisely how the person in charge managed all of the assets and income during the first year. Then after that first accounting generally accountings are due for court approval every other year as long as the incapacitated person is alive. These accountings are extremely detailed, and they need to be in the format required by California law, which is a pretty unique accounting format. They need to be accurate to the penny.
In addition to the court hearings, the court ordinarily will not put a person in charge of a conservatorship court proceeding unless that person obtains a bond and files it with the court. Plus that person also must file with the court a detailed inventory of all of the incapacitated person’s assets.
A conservatorship court proceeding is a lot of work. It also lasts a long time, and it can be quite costly.
Having estate plan documents in place such as a trust, powers of attorney, and other related documents is the best way to avoid a conservatorship court proceeding.
Nevertheless, conservatorship court proceedings are essential for those people who have become incapacitated and who have not done estate planning.