When the court chooses you as a conservator, you are responsible to the court. You take on certain jobs and responsibilities. The court can and will examine everything you do as a conservator for the person or estate.
If you're chosen as a limited conservator of a person who is developmentally disabled, the court can give you limited responsibility for the person and their estate. The court will explain your responsibilities in what's called Letters of Conservatoship.
Power specified in your Letters
If you're a limited conservator, you can only take care of the part of conservatee's life and finances that are described in your Letters of Conservatorship and in the court's order appointing you.
The conservatee keeps all other legal and civil rights.
Most of the information in the sections on the Conservatee's Rights, Conservator of the Person, and Conservator of the Estate applies to limited conservatorships. But talk to your lawyer so you can be sure exactly what applies to your case.
Duty to help develop self-reliance
You must get treatment, services, and opportunities to help the limited conservatee become as independent as possible. This can be:
Training or education,
Medical and psychological services,
Vocational opportunities, and
Other appropriate help.
If the court chooses you as a temporary conservator, you have the same duties and powers that a regular conservator has. Except the conservatorship will end on the date written in your Letters of Temporary Conservatorship. A temporary conservator acts only until a permanent conservator is appointed.
A temporary conservator shouldn't make long-term decisions or changes that can wait for the permanent conservator. You can't move a conservatee to another home or sell or give away the conservatee's home or any other property without the court's permission.
Most of the information in the sections on the Conservatee's Rights, Conservator of the Person, and Conservator of the Estate also applies to temporary conservatorships. But talk to your lawyer about what you shouldn't do because of the time limit on your conservatorship.
Conservator of the Person
When the court chooses you as the conservator of a person, this means you:
Arrange for the conservatee's care and protection;
Decide where the conservatee will live; and
Are in charge of:
clothes, personal care,
housekeeping, transportation, and
Figure out what the conservatee needs:
You must figure out what the conservatee needs and how to meet those needs.
Decide where the conservatee will live:
You can decide where the conservatee will live. But you must choose the least restrictive place. It has to be appropriate, safe, and comfortable for the conservatee. And it has to let the conservatee be as independent as possible.
You must tell the court every time the conservatee's address changes.
You can't move the conservatee out of state.
You can't put the conservatee in a mental health treatment facility. You may be able to put the conservatee in a special residential care facility with a secure fence around the property if the conservatee has dementia and the court agrees with you. But you have to make sure the facility:
Meets the conservatee's special needs, and
Is not more restrictive than necessary.
Get health care for the conservatee:
You are responsible for making sure that the conservatee's health-care needs are taken care of.
You can't give or deny consent for medical treatment if the conservatee doesn't agree, unless the court gives you that exclusive right.
If the court gives you the power to approve the use of certain very strong medications to treat dementia, make sure the doctors try other, less intrusive treatments first.
Conservator of the Estate
The money and property the conservatee owns are called the conservatee's "estate."
When the court chooses you to be the conservator of an estate, you will:
Manage the conservatee's finances;
Protect the conservatee's income and property;
Make a list of everything in the estate;
Make a plan to make sure the conservatee's needs are met;
Make sure the conservatee's bills are paid;
Invest the conservatee's money;
Make sure the conservatee gets all the benefits he or she is eligible for;
Make sure the conservatee's taxes are filed and paid on time;
Keep exact financial records; and
Make regular reports of the financial accounts to the court and other interested persons.
How to manage the estate's assets
Make smart investments. Manage the estate's property carefully. Remember: You are taking care of someone else's property. Do not make risky investments.
Keep estate assets separate. You must keep the estate's money and property separate from anyone else's, especially your own. When you open a bank account for the estate, the name on the account has to say that it is a conservatorship account and not your personal account.
Never deposit estate money in your personal account.
Never mix estate money with yours or anyone else's, even for a little while.
Stocks and bonds must be held in a name that shows they belong to the estate and not to you.
Use interest-bearing accounts and other investments. You can set up checking accounts for everyday expenses. But the rest of the estate's money must be in accounts that earn interest. You can deposit estate money in insured accounts. But don't put more than $100,000 in any one bank. Talk to a lawyer before you make any investments or change any investments the conservatee made before you were appointed.
Other restrictions. There are a lot of other limits on how you can handle the estate's property. Unless you have a court order, you can't:
Pay yourself or your lawyer with the estate's money;
Give away any part of the estate; or
Borrow money from the estate.
If you don't get permission from the court when you have to, you may have to pay back the estate from your own money. And you may be removed as conservator. Talk to a lawyer about what the law says about sales, leases, mortgages, and investments.
Inventory of estate property
If you're chosen to be conservator of an estate, you must make and keep a list of what the estate owns. To do this, you need to:
Find the estate's property. You must find, get, and protect all the money and property the conservatee owns. Put the personal property into your name as conservator of the estate. For real estate, file a copy of your Letters of Conservatorship with the county recorder in every county where the conservatee owns real estate.
Determine the value of the property. You must get a court-appointed referee to figure out how much the estate's noncash property is worth. But you, not the referee, have to figure out how much the "cash items" are worth. Talk to a lawyer about how to do this.
File an inventory and appraisal. You must file an inventory and appraisal describing the conservatee's property and showing its value when you became conservator. This is due no more than 90 days after you become conservator.
Maintain insurance. Make sure there is enough insurance to cover the property of the estate. Also, make sure it's the right kind of insurance. Keep the insurance in effect for each property for the whole time that you manage property as conservator.
Record keeping and accounting
Records. You must keep complete, exact records of every financial transaction that has to do with the estate. Use the checkbook for the conservatorship checking account to keep records of the money that comes in and the expenses you pay.
You'll have to prepare an accounting report of:
All income, money, and property you get,
What you spent,
The date of every transaction,
The purpose of every transaction, and
What's left after you pay the estate's expenses.
Court review of your records. A year after you become conservator, you must file a petition to ask the court to approve your accounting. After that, you must do this again every 2 years. Save your receipts. The court may want to see them.
If you don't file your accounting, the court will order you to file it. And you may be removed as conservator.
Legal advice Your lawyer can give you advice and help you prepare your inventory, accounting, and petitions. Always cooperate with your lawyer.
Talk to a lawyer if you have any questions or doubts. Our office number is 925- 229- 4000.
Fishel & Fishel, Attorneys at Law is a Law firm serving the Contra Costa County are including the Northern California East Bay communities of Alameda, Albany, Antioch, Benicia, Berkeley, Brentwood, Byron, Castro valley, Claremont, Concord, Danville, Dublin, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Emeryville, Fairfield, Fremont, Hayward, Hercules, Lafayette, Livermore, Martinez, Montclair, Moraga, Oakland, Oakley, Orinda, Piedmont, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Pleasanton, Point Richmond, San Leandro, San Pablo, San Ramon, Union City, Vacaville, Vallejo, Walnut Creek. We have over 18 years experience in the practice of Family Law covering Child Custody, Juvenile Law, Divorce, Dissolution, Personal Injury, Criminal Defense.