This is the first in a series of six writings about conservatorship court proceedings in California. This writing will discuss who might need a conservatorship court proceeding and the types of conservatorships. Five writings will follow that will address other topics regarding conservatorship court proceedings.
If someone is unable to 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.
When someone becomes incapacitated without having done any estate planning such as having a trust or powers of attorney, often a conservatorship court proceeding is necessary to put someone else in charge of all of the affairs of the incapacitated person.
There are three types of conservatorships in California. All of them give a person (known as the conservator) legal authority over another person who is incapacitated (known as the conservatee). The three types are probate conservatorships, limited conservatorships, and LPS conservatorships.
A probate conservatorship provides the conservator with legal authority to manage essentially all of the affairs of the conservatee. It normally continues until the death of the conservatee. A probate conservatorship is designed for people who are incapacitated due to conditions such as coma, stroke, dementia, etc., from which people often do not recover.
A limited conservatorship is designed for people with developmental disabilities such as autism who may be able to handle some, but not all, of their own affairs. A limited conservatorship provides the conservator with legal authority to manage only those affairs of the conservatee that the conservatee cannot handle on his or her own. There are seven powers in particular that can be provided to the limited conservator, as appropriate based on the abilities of the conservatee. Those seven are the powers to decide where the conservatee lives; access the conservatee’s confidential records; decide whether the conservatee marries; enter into contracts on behalf of the conservatee; determine the conservatee’s medical care; select the conservatee’s social and sexual contacts and relationships; and make decisions to educate the conservatee.
Finally, an LPS conservatorship provides the conservator with essentially the same legal authority as a probate conservatorship. An LPS conservatorship also provides the conservator with two important additional powers, which are the powers to require the conservatee to receive medication and to place a mentally ill conservatee in a locked facility if a psychiatrist says it is needed (even if the conservatee disagrees with that placement). (Incidentally, the L, P, and S of LPS are the first initial of the last name of the three legislators who wrote the LPS conservatorship law, who were Lanterman, Petris, and Short.)
There are many other differences among these three types of conservatorship. Those differences may be the subject of a future writing.
The next writing will discuss the two aspects of every conservatorship, as well as some of the court procedures.