Did you know that 1,459 Californians were involved in temporary conversatorships from 2019 to 2020? These staggering figures and the raging news coverage on Brittany Spears’ conservatorship case prove how this legal procedure is a hot topic. Since counties like Los Angeles did not report at all for the state-wide conservatorship statistics, we believe the issue is more significant than many Californians admit.
You may understand your loved one needs a conservatorship to aid them with basic decision-making, but are looking for a specific legal solution for their mental disabillities. An officer, psychiatrist, or other medical professional may have hopsitalized them or even kept them under suicide watch so they cannot hurt themselves or others.
We believe LPS Conservatorships are exactly what your family member or friend needs to stabilize their mental illness and get them back on their feet again.
What is a Conservatorship?
There is no doubt we all want to protect our loved ones from someone else taking advantage of them in their vulnerable position. Whether through physical injuries, emotional abuse, or even estate manipulation, your mentally ill person is especially prone to these woes. This difficult situation is where a conservatorship can help.
A conservatorship is a serious legal action that you can take if your family member or loved one cannot make decisions on their own. It is a necessary action when the person you care about cannot take care of themselves or their finances. You should have a greater urgency to secure a conservatorship for your mentally disabled person since their neurological jugements are skewed, resulting in poorer choices than with the elderly.
There are two main people involved in a conservatorship:
1. The conservatee is the person the court has decided requires another adult to handle their estate and life needs.
2. A conservator is that individual that the court has appointed to manage the conservatee’s affairs. They can either fall underneath a conservator of the person or conservator of the estate.
The Conservator’s Role
A local court hearing will appoint the mentally ill a conservator when they cannot in good conscience make wise decisions for their life. This means that, as a result of a mental disorder, the person cannot provide food, clothing, shelter, or care for themselves on a regular basis. They simply require additional support to live, which your loved one may need depending on their mental condition.
The conservator is often a family member responsible for everything related to your mentally ill person, ranging from health care and medical treatment choices to financial matters and other essential life decisions. By assuming the responsibility, the conservator will become legally accountable to the court for the overall welfare of the conservatee.
Two Types of Conservatorships in California
Your mentally ill family member or friend, who suffers from a severe neurological disorder, will likely require a conservatorship to give you peace of mind about their wellbeing. However, the local courts respect your loved one’s unique situation and have legislated a conservatorship specific to them while still protecting their civil rights.
A conservatorship lawyer will walk you through the following two main types of this legal procedure available, but will suggest LPS Conservatorships if your proposed conservatee is eligible:
1. Probate conservatorships focus on individuals who have intellectual disabilities or dementia. A county judge will grant them without an ending date most of the time.
2. LPS (Lanterman-Petris-Short) conservatorship. Named after three pioneering lawmakers in 1967, LPS Conservatorships established strict guidelines for involuntary treatment to help mentally ill persons with their daily needs. Unlike the broad probate option, lawmakers designed LPS’s for disabled persons in mind.
LPS Mental Conditions in California
A local or state judge has nuanced guidelines for who can receive an LPS Conservatorship, ensuring that a true, mentally incapacited person receives this specilized legal procedure. Just because a psychiatrist has diagnosed your loved one with a mental illness does not qualify them since neurological debilitation problems can range with various symptoms. Your family member or friend may struggle with run-of-the-mill anxiety and depression episodes but could have no grounds for protection from an LPS Conservator.
This type of conservatorship is only for adults with mental illnesses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). These do not include people who are developmentally disabled. The most common diagnosis that falls into this category include mental illnesses that place themselves and others in harm’s way if a conservator does not intervene.
Here are a few of the most common mental illnesses associated with LPS Conservatorships:
- Bi-Polar Disorder (Manic Depression)
- Schizo-affective Disorder
- Clinical Depression
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
The First LPS Conservatorship Steps for the Mentally Ill
1). Call for a WIC 5150 hold
If a mental health professional believes your loved one is in danger due to their condition, they will put them on a psychiatric hold (also known as a WIC 5150 hold). By the end of the 72 hours, one of several things will happen:
- A medical professional will release them, or;
- Your mentally ill person will admit themselves as a voluntary patient, or;
- An extended 14-day involuntary hold will take place, or;
- There will be a conservatorship referral to the Office of the Public Guardian for your loved one
You may be surprised to learn that family members or other private parties cannot refer a person for a mental health conservatorship. Again, a judge will turn you away at the county court if you and others closest to the loved one do not follow LSP legal guidelines. A referral must come from one of two sources:
1. An approved psychiatrist authorized to do LPS evaluations
2. The professional staff at the hospital where the person is receiving mental health treatment
2). Request a Temporary Conservatorship
The Office of the Public Conservator will formally request the court to establish a temporary mental health conservatorship, which could lead to a general or permanent conservatorship. Although the law will place unwanted restrictions over your mentally ill person’s life, they will always have legal rights that the state will respect as much as possible.
You must send your loved one written notice of their temporary conservatorship at least five days before it takes place in the state of California. Then, the process will move along at a rapid pace since a temporary conservatorship cannot last longer than 30 days.
Finally, a judge will review the medical professional’s petition and decide whether a general conservatorship is necessary.
Appointing an LPS Conservator
LPS Conservatorships require a high level of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” that settles your loved one’s need for invasive conservatorship help for the judge. After the LPS Conservatorship, their evaluation will need additional evidence, so the judge understands exactly how much decision-making support they need. For example, you may have to demonstrate that your family member is so confused and disorganized that they are unable to make daily living plans.
If an LPS Conservatorship is granted for your loved one, it may result in a mental health facility housing your family member, where they may force them to take psychiatric medications.
Your relative (the conservatee) will lose many of the civil rights we take for granted due to the LSP Conservatorship. These liberties include where they want to live, what medical treatment to accept or refuse, and how they want to manage their money. However, these necessary sacrifices in the short term will lead your loved one into fuller emotional, financial, and physical freedom for the future.
The LPS Conservatorship Procedure
Although LPS Conservatorships are unique to mentally incapacitated individuals, a similar conservatorship process to probate situations also applies. There are several forms and produces to follow after a medical professional calls a 72-hour psychiatric hold for your loved one and a judge confirms their drastic measure with legal authority:
1. File a Petition. The petition is the first step and explains why the LPS Conservatorship is necessary. This form gives details on why your relative or friend cannot care for their welfare and financial needs.
2. File a Confidential Conservatorship Screening Form. Whoever will become the LPS Conservator for the court will fill out this document to learn more about their qualifications and why they would be a good fit. The LPS Conservatorship’s success depends on the quality and commitment of the person the judge appoints to oversee the care.
3. File a Duties of Conservator Form. This document outlines what the conservator will be doing for the conservatee, such as how they will track finances, how communication will exist with the court, and how the conservator will take care of your loved one. The proposed LPS Conservator must also sign a form that they have read the California Handbook for Conservators.
4. Provide Notice. Written documentation is required to inform the individual (potential conservatee) of the upcoming conservatorship. You must also provide a notice to the mentally ill person’s close relatives in writing. By law, the proposed conservator cannot deliver this notice and must have someone else do it.
5. Obtain a Bond. In order to protect the LPS Conservatee, a bond is necessary to guard the conservatee’s estate from mishandling. Each year, the conservator will have to pay for a small percentage of the total bond amount.
After this series of legal steps, a court will appoint a conservator that will act as the representative to make decisions on behalf of the conservatee.
Does an LPS Conservatorship End?
A local judge will decide on a year-to-year basis whether to drop the conservatorship or ask the court to renew it, believing your mentally ill person may outgrow their need for additional assistance with essential life decisions. The court has the authority to end the conservatorship if your loved one can prove they have regained their ability to care for themselves and manage their daily needs. They hold your mentally disabled person’s civil rights in high regard in this way.
Legal Support for Conservatorships for the Mentally Ill in California
Clearly, the process of conservatorships is complex and time-consuming. It can be difficult to manage all the requirements whether you are the conservator or the individual who needs support. The required paperwork with the required deadlines can be a hassle, and it can be overwhelming.
You don’t have to go at it alone. Our attorneys are skilled in the area of conservatorships. We have decades of combined experience as California conservatorship lawyers. Whether you need legal expertise in helping to get appointed as a conservator, or if you require guidance on removing a bad conservator, we can assist you.
You can easily schedule a consultation by calling our law offices at (800) 840-1998. We would welcome you to meet in one of our offices in Torrance, Laguna Hills, or Fountain Valley. Or we will set up a virtual meeting with you at your convenience no matter where your location is.