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.
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?
Before a conservatorship is granted, the petitioner(s) or proposed conservator(s) must first consider less restrictive alternatives to a conservatorship. Below are some common examples.
Supported decision-making is a process that allows people with disabilities or impairments to enter into a written agreement to receive support from trusted people but maintain the ability to make their own decisions. The person with a disability chooses the people who support them, including family, friends, staff, or professionals.
The supporters agree to help the person with a disability understand, consider, and communicate decisions. Supporters also give the person the ability to make their own informed decisions. Supported decision-making does not involve the courts.
Additional information on supported decision-making is available from The Arc of California.
Designation of a Healthcare Surrogate
- By Individuals With Capacity
For individuals who have not completed an Advanced Healthcare Directive (see below), their health care provider may recommend that they consider who they would like to assist in making health care decisions on their behalf if they become unable to make such decisions themselves. When a designation of a surrogate decision-maker is made, this designation is effective only during the course of the patient’s treatment or illness, during the patient’s hospitalization, or for 60 days, whichever period is shorter.
- By Individuals Without Capacity
If an individual has not appointed a surrogate or agent through a valid written or oral directive for health care decision-making, the health care provider may identify an individual to make health care decisions on behalf of the patient. The patient’s surrogate must be an adult who has demonstrated special care and concern for the patient, is familiar with the patient’s personal values and beliefs to the extent known, and is reasonably available and willing to serve. A surrogate may be chosen from any of the following persons:
- The spouse or domestic partner of the patient
- An adult child of the patient
- A parent of the patient
- An adult sibling of the patient
- An adult grandchild of the patient
- An adult relative or close personal friend
Advanced Healthcare Directive (AHCD)
An AHCD is a legal document that allows a person to specify their medical treatment preferences and appoint a trusted person to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated. It includes details about medical history, values, beliefs, and end-of-life wishes. This document covers a broad range of situations, such as life-sustaining treatment, pain management, organ donation, and other medical decisions. This sample AHCD is from the California's Office of the Attorney General.
Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
While an AHCD is a comprehensive legal document that covers a wide range of healthcare decisions, a POLST is a medical form that is focused on end-of-life decisions that require immediate medical attention. For instance, it may specify whether a person wants to receive CPR, antibiotics, or be put on a ventilator. It also provides information about comfort measures, such as pain relief and hospice care.
Power of Attorney (POA)
A POA allows one person to name another person to make financial or other decisions on their behalf. A POA can be either “durable” or “springing.”
- A durable POA means the person who has been named to make financial or legal decisions will be able to continue to do so as long as the POA exists.
- A springing POA comes into effect when something occurs, such as a determination of incapacity.
This sample California Uniform Statutory POA is from the Sacramento County Public Library.
A living trust allows a person to put assets and property, like bank accounts, real estate and life insurance, under the control of a trustee. Most people set themselves up as the trustee and also name a trusted person to be the successor trustee. When they die or become incapacitated or unable to manage the assets, the successor trustee takes over.
Special Needs Trusts (SNT)
An SNT is a way for a person with a disability to maintain eligibility for public benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income and Medi-Cal, even while having assets that would normally make them ineligible. The Department of Health Care Services provides additional information about SNTs.
A representative payee is an individual or organization appointed by Social Security to manage a person’s Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. They must use the money in the best interest of the person, often called a “beneficiary.” They will receive the public benefits, ensure that all bills are paid, and provide the beneficiary with money for their personal needs. The Social Security Administration provides additional information on the Representative Payee program.
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 (formerly known as 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)
The following forms are required to start the Conservatorship proceedings:
The Court also offers self-help packets, 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
The court filing fee and the investigation fee amounts can be found on the Court's Fee Schedule.
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-041PDF) must be completed and filed with your Petition.
What do I have to do after I fill out the forms?
Electronic filing is required for attorneys. Self-represented litigants may submit completed forms electronically, in-person, or by mail.
- To e-File your documents, please refer to the Electronic Filing Requirements (Probate) (SDSC Form # PR-188).
- To file in-person, please visit the Probate Business Office at the Central Courthouse and bring the original forms along with an additional copy of each completed form.
- To file by mail, you are required to send your original documents, plus an additional copy of each completed form and a self-addressed, stamped envelope for conformed copies to be returned to you. The mailing address is:
Superior Court of California, County of San Diego
Attn: Probate Division – Room 330
1100 Union Street
San Diego, CA 92101
- 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 and detailed in the SDSC Form # PR-172.
- A court-appointed attorney will contact you prior to the hearing to conduct an interview and prepare a report.
- For General 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.
Please refer to this timeline for a general overview of the Conservatorship process.
Conservatorship Orientation Program
All conservators, excluding limited conservators of the person and Private Professional Conservators as defined by Prob. Code § 2340 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 of Completion – Conservatorship Orientation Class (SDSC Form # PR-186) must be filed with the court. Failure to complete this requirement may be grounds for removal and could result in the imposition of sanctions, as ordered by the court.
Links to the online classes can be found below. If you have additional questions, please call (619) 698-9450.
Conservatorship of the Person
Conservatorship of the Estate
NOTE: The online classes are provided by the Superior Court of Riverside, but meet the minimum requirements for conservatorship in this county.
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.
Forms for transferring Conservatorship from California to another state (outgoing):
- Petition to Transfer Orders (California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act) (JC Form #GC-363)
- Provisional Order for Transfer (California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act) (JC Form #GC-364)
- Final Order Confirming Transfer (California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act) (JC Form #GC-365)
Forms for transferring Conservatorship from other states to California (incoming):
- Petition for Order Accepting Transfer (California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act) (JC Form #GC-366)
- Provisional Order Accepting Transfer (California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act) (JC Form #GC-367)
- Final Order Accepting Transfer (California Conservatorship Jurisdiction Act) (JC Form #GC-368)
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 three 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.
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.