Conservatorships in California are designed to provide necessary assistance to individuals who are incapacitated due to mental illness or physical disability, allowing a designated conservator to make decisions on their behalf. While essential for protecting the interests of the incapacitated, conservatorships do entail significant control over the conservatee’s rights and freedoms, which often raises concerns about their scope and duration compared to less invasive measures like power of attorney.

The duration of a conservatorship in California can vary depending on the circumstances and needs of the conservatee. Unlike power of attorney, which can be more easily tailored and terminated, a conservatorship is typically more binding and difficult to dissolve. It remains in effect until the court deems it no longer necessary. The primary goal of the court is to prioritize the conservatee’s best interests, aiming to restore their independence as swiftly and safely as possible. This means that a conservatorship will end when a judge determines that the conservatee has regained the capacity to handle their own affairs or, unfortunately, upon the conservatee’s death. Additionally, modifications or terminations can occur if it’s shown that the conservatorship is no longer beneficial or appropriate for the conservatee’s situation.

Timeline for Establishing a Conservatorship

Establishing a conservatorship in California generally takes about one to two months from the time the petition is filed to the court hearing. Delays can occur if the conservatorship is contested by another party, such as disagreements over who should be appointed as the conservator of the person or estate. In these cases, the judge will need to consider all arguments before issuing a court order. However, if there is an urgent need for immediate care due to the potential for significant harm to the individual or others, an emergency conservatorship can be arranged in just a few days, providing swift protection for those at risk.

Reasons for Ending a Conservatorship

Under California law, conservatorships are not meant to last indefinitely and can be terminated for several reasons, all aimed at protecting the conservatee’s best interests:

  1. Conservatee’s Death: If the conservatee passes away, the conservatorship automatically ends. Subsequently, an estate planning attorney would typically handle the distribution of their assets and any matters concerning their will.
  2. Judicial Decision: A conservatorship may also end if a judge determines that it is no longer necessary— for example, if the conservatee has recovered sufficiently to manage their own affairs. This could be after medical rehabilitation that restores their ability to perform daily activities like cooking and driving.
  3. Depletion of Assets: If the conservatee’s financial resources are exhausted, a conservatorship managing the estate would end, as there would be no assets left to manage.
  4. Conservator’s Death: In cases of limited conservatorships, the arrangement ends if the conservator dies. For other types of adult conservatorships, the process continues with the appointment of a new conservator, which could be another family member or a state-appointed official, ensuring continuity of care and management of the conservatee’s needs.

The Investigator & Conservatorship Length

In California, the duration and continuation of a conservatorship are heavily influenced by the court investigator’s reports. Unlike the judge, who may not have the opportunity to interact directly with the conservatee outside the courtroom, the court investigator plays a critical role in assessing the conditions of the conservatorship by visiting the conservatee and their conservator regularly. These visits are crucial for evaluating the necessity of the arrangement and checking for any signs of abuse.

The investigator conducts personal interviews to monitor the conservatee’s physical condition, medical treatments, and overall quality of life. They also ensure that the conservator fulfills their duties as mandated by the court. Ultimately, the decision to terminate a conservatorship often relies on the evidence and feedback provided through these regular investigative reports.

Variability in Conservatorship Durations

Conservatorships in California may continue indefinitely, subject to periodic evaluations by the court investigator and judicial review. The continuation depends on the ongoing assessment of the conservatee’s capacity and the necessity for oversight due to challenges like mental health issues that may impair their decision-making.

  • General Conservatorship: Typically, a general conservatorship is reviewed six months after it is established, followed by annual reviews. The court investigator is tasked with interviewing all involved parties during these checks to advise the court on whether to continue or terminate the conservatorship.
  • Emergency Conservatorship: This type of conservatorship is temporary, lasting only 30-60 days. It is used to provide immediate protection until a full court hearing can be conducted. An emergency conservatorship is resolved either by transitioning to a general or limited conservatorship or by denying the conservatorship petition altogether.
  • LPS Conservatorship: Specifically designed for cases requiring hospitalization or placement in a locked facility, an LPS conservatorship lasts for one year. Renewal notices are sent 90 days before expiration, and failure to renew results in the termination of the conservatorship, allowing the conservatee to make their own decisions once again.
  • Limited Conservatorship: Tailored for adults with special needs, such as those with developmental disabilities, this type of conservatorship is initially reviewed one year after establishment and subsequently every two years. The court investigator assesses the arrangement’s effectiveness and reports back to the court.

Addressing Conservatorship Abuse

If there are signs of abuse within a conservatorship, such as manipulation, theft, or physical harm, it is crucial to take immediate action. Engaging a skilled conservatorship attorney can help address these concerns effectively. These attorneys collaborate with the court investigator, who may serve as an expert witness, to bring the issues before a judge in a formal hearing. While the conservatorship itself may continue if the court deems it necessary for the conservatee’s welfare, an abusive conservator can be replaced to ensure the conservatee’s protection and proper management of their personal and financial affairs.

You always have the option to report conservatorship abuse if you sense the warning signs of manipulation, theft, or physical violence. A skilled conservatorship attorney partners with you to uncover injustice against your loved one. Then, they call the court investigator as an expert witness and bring all parties to an official court hearing.

The conservatorship may still remain in cases of conservatorship abuse, but the judge will appoint a different conservator to replace the abuser. Even with an unhealthy supervisor, the courts may believe the conservatee still requires support for personal and financial affairs.

We Keep Your Loved One’s Best Interests in Mind

At the end of the day, you must do what is best for your loved ones when deciding whether they should enter a conservatorship. It is daunting to petition them for a legal program that strips them in many cases of the ability to feed themselves or manage their checking account. You can feel tremendous guilt due to a conservatorship’s permanency and how long they can last in extreme cases. But it can be the best thing for them to learn how to make sound decisions and get back on their feet again.

If you have someone close who you believe is incapacitated, it is likely they are detrimental to themselves or others. It’s our mission to help them gain independence and put your family’s interests first. Give our experienced legal team a call at (800)-840-1998 so we can support you during this time. Also, you can trust us to help file your forms and report to the court quickly if you choose to pursue a conservatorship.