If Brittany Spears’ conservatorship media coverage is your only source for how to help your incapacitated loved one, you will not know everything necessary for assisting them.
Conservatorships as a whole are straightforward, where a conservator has the legal authority to aid your family member or friend with daily rhythms and living arrangements as a public guardian or finances. But if you do not understand the complex details and process from beginning to end, your loved one will remain without help. An intricate legal system with specific types of conservatorships and procedures does not become simpler or favor any private parties.
The conservatorship process works according to three main components: your court petition, the court investigator’s interview(s), and the conservatorship hearing. You must go through each to build a strong case against the proposed conservatee that will convince the judge to summon all involved parties, which will result in your loved one’s protection. They will have a responsible probate conservator overseeing their choices and providing proper support in upholding their best interests.
You need to send a court petition to start the probate conservatorship process and obtain legal help for your family member or friend. It is not as easy as walking into the courthouse and filing with the court because you feel a conservatorship is necessary. This letter should match the regular, limited, or LPS conservatorship you seek so the county understands exactly what conservator services you are requesting.
The judge over your case has to concur that your loved one is incapacitated and cannot make sound decisions on their own. Their goal is to uphold the potential conservatee’s constitutional rights, so you must undergo a challenging process to violate those rights, even if for good reasons.
Your court petition is an argument for your family member or friend’s incapacitation and why they require a conservator’s assistance, either as a conservator of the person or estate. The main points you should emphasize in your letter are your loved one’s mental/health disability, how that disability affects their poor decisions, why they cannot take care of themselves, etc. In addition, you should specify whether you believe they need a permanent or temporary conservatorship.
You must include specific instances of their incapacitation when you file a petition, which will lead a judge to take your case seriously and pursue it further. If they feel your family member or friend is in actual danger of harming themselves and cannot take care of themselves, they will order a court investigator to proceed.
The Investigator’s Report
The next component of conservatorships that brings you peace of mind about your loved one is when the court investigator interviews you and the potential conservatee. They are an unbiased third party that will scope out your developmental disability claims in the petition and either confirm or reject them. If your conservatorship case arrived at this stage, that means you have earned the judge’s confidence, and they believe your claims could be legitimate.
However, the court investigator must agree with your assertions that your loved one is of unsound mind and is in danger of harming themselves. They will come to this determination by meeting with the potential conservatee in private and both of you together, sometimes on multiple occasions. When they sit down with the conservatee, the judge requires them to inform the conservatee of:
- How the conservatorship will affect their life moving forward
- What will occur at the court hearing
- Their right to retaliate against the conservatorship, hire a lawyer, choose a different conservator, and have a trial by jury
The judge also charges court investigators to analyze the potential conservatee’s mental and physical signs and make private judgments about whether they can express their wishes for the conservatorship. If they feel the person is unable, the investigator will decide if the county will forcefully appoint an attorney to represent them at the hearing. Also, they will see if they have the mobility, ability, and capacity to attend the hearing or if their mental limitations prohibit them.
The Court Hearing
A judge will require you, the court investigator, the proposed conservatee, and other crucial third parties to attend the case’s court hearing, which will decide the conservatorship. Specifically, they will rule whether the person indeed is incapacitated and appoint a suitable conservator to adopt the conservatee’s responsibilities.
If the person is not incapacitated, the law has no power to manage their financial affairs or living arrangements and, therefore, the judge will request additional evidence of your claim. The court investigator, the neutral party, will testify based on their observations and interview with the conservatee, including their mental capabilities assessment.
Any family member or friend can object to the conservatorship and if the judge believes no incapacitation is present, the proposed conservatee has the option of using a power of attorney. Ultimately, a judge will weigh all claims and decide.
If your case goes through and your proposed loved one receives a conservator, the judge will discuss with all interested parties who will take the position. The hierarchy for a proposed conservator begins with their spouse/domestic partner and moves down to the adult children, adult siblings, and other blood relatives. However, if the judge realizes that all the closest parties would not represent the conservatee’s best interests, they will appoint a professional conservator to tackle the responsibilities.
Once you understand how the conservatorship process works and walk through it, you can place a conservator in your loved one’s life: a person who cares and will represent their best interests. That way, your incapacitated family member or friend can still live life to the fullest despite a mental illness or other disability. You can relax knowing that a responsible person will help them make good decisions and that the law has your back, protecting the ones you love with authority you can trust.
Our estate planning lawyers have worked with clients with complex, intricate cases where incapacitated loved ones receive the right conservators. We would be honored to earn your trust and listen to your unique situation. Then, we can move forward with your conservatorship case and take you through the process with our force of experienced and talented lawyers.
If you would like to speak about our attorneys representing you to save an incapacitated loved one, call our office at (800)-840-1998.