You may have a loved one who is in immediate danger of harming themselves or others due to incapacitation.
Typical case examples are when someone with schizophrenia, bipolar, or other serious mental illnesses are running their lives into the ground. Due to chemical imbalances, they may reject a power of attorney or not have the mental capacity to understand what they are signing.
It can be excruciating to help a loved one through these times, especially if they have harmed you, family, or friends in the process. However, you understand they are not themselves and can get back on track with a heavy hand pushing them in the right direction.
You do not have to live in anxiety and fear of how they might damage themselves or someone else with an emergency conservatorship in place. It is one of many conservatorship options, and we want to walk you through what these are so you understand what your loved one needs.
Conservatorships & Guardianships
The legal language in California for conservatorships may be a little confusing, especially when your family member or friend requires immediate support.
Unlike many other states, the protective legal process for an adult is called a conservatorship. But when a minor is involved, it is called a guardianship.
They both serve the same purpose: to allow the court to appoint a person who can step in to manage medical, economic, and life decisions for someone unable to do so on their own.
The California Courts define a conservatorship as “a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for themselves or manage their finances.”
Although the courts traditionally prioritize immediate family when appointing a conservator, it does not necessarily have to be a relative. It can be anyone like you who expresses concerns for someone else’s welfare.
Three Main Conservatorships
You can pursue a conservatorship with the California courts if your family member or friend is above 18. They could be an incapacitated elderly person or a young adult struggling with mental health or addiction.
In either case, the law legislated conservatorships specifically to help them, violating their rights now so they can be free later. Sometimes, you will need the help of a judge and a conservatorship attorney to make them get better when they cannot make that choice for themselves.
There are three main conservatorships your loved one can receive during the official court hearing. These will include a conservator of their estate, a conservator of their person, or both to protect them in any circumstances.
This conservatorship type is most often used in cases if your loved one’s mental or physical abilities make them unable to handle daily tasks. Judges will hear these petitions in probate court if they deem them worthy of a conservator’s assistance.
Also presented in probate court, you can implement a limited conservatorship if your family member has a developmental disability. It can include individuals with autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or other issues that began before their eighteenth birthday. You need to establish this legal arrangement before they turn 18, so a conservator has decision-making power in their life to help them become independent.
In this type of situation, a conservator becomes responsible for overseeing the medical treatment for an adult conservatee who has extreme mental health issues. These conservatees are likely in a restrictive living situation such as a psychiatric hospital for their safety and the safety of others.
What Is An Emergency Conservatorship?
These conservatorship options are excellent ways to assist your incapacitated loved one, but they could be in severe danger of harming themselves or someone else. Your situation may require a legal solution that happens quicker than the traditional conservatorship.
In emergency situations when your loved one needs immediate help, you can petition for a temporary conservatorship. In California, you can get a hearing in as little as five days, and the courts will assign them a temporary conservator.
An emergency conservatorship allows you to file a petition for the full conservatorship and mail copies of the documents to all legally required persons. Of course, doing this all on your own is a monumental task.
Having an experienced attorney by your side will guide you through the complex process.
How to Obtain an Emergency Conservatorship
Suppose you decide that petitioning the court and establishing a conservatorship is the best option to help take care of your family member. In that case, a court has the final word in determining whether the situation is truly an emergency.
California Legal Code defines an emergency conservatorship as necessary when “a circumstance that likely will result in substantial harm to a proposed conservatee’s health, safety, or welfare.”
To get a California emergency conservatorship, you will have to take the following steps and meet these requirements:
- The person initiating the emergency conservatorship must prove that an emergency is taking place
- The proposed conservator has provided all people involved with proper the notice
- The conservator can provide proper care for the proposed conservatee
The Difference Between Conservatorships and Power of Attorney
Conservatorships and even emergency conservatorships can sound like the same protection as a Power of Attorney. However, the critical difference between a Power of Attorney and Conservatorship is how you create them.
For example, a power of attorney is a voluntary act that allows the designated individual to act to administer the person’s affairs. You can create a binding power of attorney before your relative becomes incapacitated, but conservatorship petitions will come after a person cannot make critical decisions anymore.
The courts control conservatorships, and the judge is ultimately responsible for appointing a conservator to care for another adult who cannot care for themselves.
Legal Support for Emergency Conservatorships 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 necessary paperwork with the mandatory deadlines can be a hassle, and it can be overwhelming.
If you believe that someone’s well-being is at risk, you may want to consider a conservatorship. We can assist you in filing a petition with the court to appoint an emergency conservator to make financial and healthcare decisions on the family member’s behalf to protect and support them.
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 Irvine. Or we will set up a virtual meeting with you at your convenience no matter where you are located.