Navigating the conservatorship process in California can be complex and daunting without thorough understanding and expert guidance.  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. Conservatorships grant legal authority for a conservator to manage everyday living arrangements and financial matters for a family member or friend who is no longer capable of doing so themselves. This legal framework is designed to ensure the safety and well-being of those who cannot independently manage their personal or financial affairs. However, the intricacies of different conservatorship types and the detailed legal procedures involved can be overwhelming and, without proper navigation, may leave vulnerable individuals without the necessary support. At The Legacy Lawyers, we understand that the stakes are high, and we are dedicated to guiding our clients through each phase of the conservatorship process to secure the protection and care their loved ones need.

The Petition

Initiating a probate conservatorship in California requires more than simply feeling that a conservatorship is necessary; it begins with a carefully crafted court petition. This document is crucial as it formally requests legal assistance for your family member or friend, and it must clearly specify whether you are seeking a regular, limited, or LPS (Lanterman-Petris-Short) conservatorship. Such specificity ensures that the court understands the precise nature of the conservatorship services you are requesting.

The petition must convincingly argue that your loved one is incapacitated to the extent that they cannot make sound decisions independently. Upholding the constitutional rights of the potential conservatee is a priority for the court, so the process is intentionally rigorous. Your petition must effectively demonstrate the necessity of infringing on these rights for compelling reasons — typically due to significant risks to their well-being or financial affairs.

Key elements to highlight in your petition include detailed evidence of the individual’s mental or health disability, examples of poor decision-making influenced by this disability, and clear explanations of why they are unable to care for themselves. Additionally, it’s important to clarify whether a permanent or temporary conservatorship is being sought.

Including specific instances of the individual’s incapacitation will help the judge understand the urgency and necessity of the conservatorship. Should the judge determine that there is a genuine risk of harm to the individual or others, they will order a court investigator to further examine the case. This step is critical as it moves the process forward toward potentially establishing a conservatorship to protect your loved one.

The Investigator’s Report

A critical stage in the conservatorship process in California involves the court investigator, whose role brings clarity and reassurance regarding the claims made in your petition. The court investigator serves as an impartial third party, tasked with verifying the assertions about the potential conservatee’s developmental disabilities or mental incapacity. Reaching this stage indicates that the judge acknowledges the potential validity of your claims and is taking them seriously.

The court investigator’s primary job is to assess whether the potential conservatee is indeed of unsound mind and at risk of harming themselves or others. This assessment is carried out through private meetings with the potential conservatee and joint sessions with both of you, potentially over several occasions. During these interactions, the investigator is required to ensure that the conservatee is fully informed about the implications of the conservatorship. They must explain:

  • The impact of the conservatorship on the conservatee’s life going forward.
  • The proceedings of the upcoming court hearing.
  • The conservatee’s rights to contest the conservatorship, hire an attorney, select an alternative conservator, and request a trial by jury.

Furthermore, the investigator evaluates the mental and physical condition of the conservatee, making private judgments on their ability to express preferences concerning the conservatorship. Should the investigator determine that the conservatee is unable to effectively communicate their wishes or participate in the decision-making process, they will decide whether to recommend that the court appoint an attorney to represent the conservatee. The investigator also assesses whether the conservatee has the physical and mental capacity to attend the hearing, or if their condition might prevent their presence.

This thorough and careful evaluation by the court investigator is essential in ensuring that all conservatorship decisions are made with the conservatee’s best interests and legal rights at the forefront.

The Court Hearing

At a conservatorship hearing in California, a judge requires the presence of several key individuals: you (the petitioner), the court investigator, the proposed conservatee, and other crucial third parties. This hearing is pivotal as it determines whether the individual in question is truly incapacitated and if so, appoints a suitable conservator to take over their responsibilities.

During the hearing, the court investigator plays a crucial role as a neutral party, presenting findings from their comprehensive evaluation of the conservatee, including assessments of mental capabilities. This testimony is vital in helping the judge make an informed decision.

It’s important to note that any family member or friend can object to the conservatorship during this process. If there is doubt about the incapacitation, the judge may seek additional evidence or even consider alternative legal tools, such as power of attorney, allowing the proposed conservatee more autonomy. Ultimately, the judge carefully weighs all claims and evidence before making a final decision.

If the conservatorship is approved, the judge will then discuss who should assume the role of conservator, typically considering close family members first, such as the spouse or domestic partner, followed by adult children, siblings, and other relatives. However, if it becomes clear that these close connections may not serve the best interests of the conservatee, a professional conservator may be appointed.

At The Legacy Lawyers, our expertise in navigating the complexities of conservatorship law in California ensures that our clients are well-represented throughout this process. We provide thorough preparation for the hearing, advocate effectively for our clients’ proposals, and ensure that all procedural requirements are met to the highest standard. Our goal is to secure a conservatorship arrangement that truly reflects and respects the best interests and well-being of your loved one, ensuring they receive the care and management they need.


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.