There are basically two types of Conservatorships: Probate and LPS. For each type, a Conservator can be appointed for the person, for the estate, or for both. The main responsibility of the Conservator is to provide each Conservatee with the best and most independent living environment possible, within their abilities and resources. The Conservator assures that all personal care, medical care, and services needed to maintain a safe and comfortable living environment are provided. In addition, the Conservator protects, preserves, and manages the Conservatee’s financial resources and all estate assets (including real and personal property). Conservatorship fees are charged on an hourly rate and must be approved by the Superior Court prior to collection.
Probate Conservatorship Services
Probate Conservatorship is designed to help those individuals who are substantially unable to provide for their own basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter), due to cognitive limitations, but who do not require care in a locked psychiatric facility. Referrals can be made by anyone in the community by contacting the Public Guardian/Conservator’s Office by telephone, in writing, or email. The requesting party will be asked to complete an application giving certain information regarding the individual. Upon receipt of the application, the Public Guardian/Conservator’s Office will conduct an investigation to determine if the referred individual is appropriate for Probate Conservatorship.
If appropriate, the Public Guardian/Conservator will petition the Superior Court for Conservatorship. Pending the court hearing, the Court Investigator will contact the person referred for Probate Conservatorship and file a report with the Court as to the appropriateness of the Conservatorship. At the hearing, the Court will make a judgment as to whether the Conservatorship is necessary. The Conservatorship lasts for the individual’s lifetime or until terminated by the Court.
The Public Guardian/Conservator does not provide Probate Conservatorship services to private individuals seeking to be appointed Conservator of another person. Such individuals must petition the Court through a private attorney.
Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship Services
The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS) provides a legal framework for the delivery of services to individuals needing psychiatric treatment, but who are unwilling or unable to accept it. The LPS Act was enacted to prevent involuntary hospitalization of individuals in psychiatric treatment facilities without judicial review. These individuals may be detained involuntarily under a system which combines medical judgment and legal procedures. The individuals served suffer from mental illness or chronic alcoholism. LPS only applies to cases of chronic alcoholism if the client continues to suffer severe cognitive debilitation, after the use of alcohol has stopped. A referral for LPS Conservatorship may only be made by the professional person in charge of a psychiatric evaluation and treatment facility, designated by the county. Upon accepting a LPS Conservatorship application, the Public Guardian/Conservator petitions the Superior Court for Temporary Conservatorship.
If the petition is granted by the Court, a hearing date is scheduled within thirty days (30). During that period of time, the individual may be detained involuntarily, pending the permanent Court decision. Prior to the hearing, the Conservator must evaluate all possible alternatives to a LPS Conservatorship, based on what is best for the individual. If it is determined that a conservatorship is needed, the Conservator will recommend the most suitable person to serve as Conservator, or recommend the Public Conservator be appointed. Although the Public Conservator will recommend who should be appointed, the Court may make an independent decision. Conservatorship lasts for a period of one year, at which time it must be renewed or it automatically terminates by law.
Representative Payee Services
The Public Guardian/Conservator may be appointed as Representative Payee (also called Substitute Payee) for individuals who receive Social Security or Veterans benefits, etc., but who have no need for conservatorship. These individuals must be unable to manage their finances.
When a request for payeeship is received by the Public Guardian/Conservator, an investigation is conducted and an evaluation is made to determine if the individual is appropriate for payee services, if they are willing to work with Mental Health Case Management, and if they meet the criteria for Mental Health Case Management services. If appropriate, an application to become payee is submitted to the Veteran’s Administration, Social Security Administration or other income source. The income source makes the final determination whether a payee is necessary, and who will be appointed. If the Public Guardian/Conservator is appointed payee, the client’s necessities will be paid by the Public Guardian/Conservator’s Office using the client’s benefits. Controlling the client’s funds often provides stabilization to the client, and improves her/his quality of life. A monthly fee is charged to the client, per Social Security Administration guidelines.