Home » Blog » Duties and Responsibilities of a Conservator
Duties and Responsibilities of a Conservator - Werner Law Firm

Duties and Responsibilities of a Conservator

Troy Werner and his family

Written by Troy Werner

Troy Werner has been an indispensable asset to The Werner Law Firm since joining in 2009, providing exceptional legal service to its clients.

Get To Know Troy!
POSTED ON: February 22, 2021

A conservator is appointed by a court to care for an adult who is mentally or physically disabled and incapable of caring fully for themselves, or a minor in need of an adult to manage finances and properties under their name. Conservators have a fiduciary duty to their conservatees, and the exact limits of their […]

A conservator is appointed by a court to care for an adult who is mentally or physically disabled and incapable of caring fully for themselves, or a minor in need of an adult to manage finances and properties under their name. Conservators have a fiduciary duty to their conservatees, and the exact limits of their powers are defined by the terms of the conservatorship as ordered by the court.

In general, conservators act in the conservatee's interest to manage either financial or healthcare decisions or both. However, they may also be limited to a more specific or short-term role (depending on the context of the conservatee’s incapacity) or may be directed to take charge of the conservatee’s social life and other in-depth aspects of care.

In some cases, conservatorships are specifically designed to manage an incapacitated individual’s estate planning. Conservatorships are often instated in cases of advanced dementia, wherein the incapacitated individual needs the help of another adult to handle their living situation, financial matters, healthcare questions, and personal care.

Conservator vs. Guardian

The terms conservator and guardian are used interchangeably. Some states draw a specific line between the two terms, while others use one over the other or both. A guardian and conservator's roles have significant overlap in any case, where a court typically tasks both with taking responsibility for someone who cannot be fully responsible for themselves. The specific legal terminology and definitions of any given case will depend on the state in which it takes place.

A common difference is that guardianship usually applies to minors, whereas conservatorship applies to incapacitated adults, as is the case in California. Another difference may be that conservators are defined by their fiduciary duty to care for someone else’s finances (also known as a conservator of the estate). At the same time, guardians are tasked with managing their personal lives and living arrangements (alternatively known as a person's conservator).

Types of Conservatorships

Conservatorships can be written to provide comprehensive legal authority to care for someone or act in a more limited capacity. For example, in cases where a young celebrity reaches the age of majority to access their wealth freely, a court may appoint a conservator to help ensure that personal expenses, bills, and taxes are first taken care of first (as is the case in some highly publicized celebrity conservatorships).

In general, conservatorships in California can be distinguished between probate conservatorship and Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship. The main difference between the two is the legal basis for which they are named. Probate conservatorships utilize the California Probate Code as their basis, whereas LPS conservatorships utilize the 1969 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act.

Probate Conservatorship

Probate conservatorship is the most common type and can further be broken down into three categories:

1. General Conservatorship

General conservatorships may be differentiated by the circumstances under which they are created. Still, all share the same basic definition: comprehensive court-appointed legal authority to care for an incapacitated or incompetent adult, often with a focus on finances, as well as other forms of care and responsibility.

2. Limited Conservatorship

Limited conservatorships are usually set up for persons with developmental disabilities. In these cases, the limited conservator's role is not to take total responsibility but to help further development and guide the conservatee’s personal growth and actions.

The idea behind a limited conservatorship is to act with interest in the conservatee’s eventual independence. Arrangements focus on providing training and education and taking care of essential needs and opportunities for work, social engagement, and recreation.

3. Temporary Conservatorship

Temporary conservatorships do not refer to the nature of the conservatee’s incapacity but are rather a transient appointment before a general or limited conservator can be appointed. A temporary conservator is assigned by a court when, for example, the previous general conservator died or became incapacitated.

Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship

LPS conservatorships are petitioned by a public entity rather than a private citizen or relative. These conservatorships are leveraged to provide care for someone suffering from extreme disabilities because of chronic physical or mental illness, to the degree that their diagnosis has left them incapable of providing for their own basic needs, including food, shelter, and clothing.

They are often used when the conservatee refuses help or unwilling/involuntarily agrees to enter treatment. Through an LPS conservatorship, living is arranged at a specialized inpatient/residential facility for the conservatee. Again, LPS conservatorships are not initiated by relatives or private individuals but rather by the local government or another public entity, such as a public guardian.

Conservatorship and Estate Planning

As a result of being responsible for their conservatee’s finances, conservators of an estate are also indirectly responsible for their conservatee’s estate at death. Conservators cannot write wills in the name of their conservatee but can:

      • Minimize and pay expenses.
      • Manage, control, and invest their assets.
      • And handle all associated income taxes and other tax obligations until the conservatee’s death (or until they retire their position as a conservator).

A critical responsibility in such cases is accounting. The conservator provides a detailed overview of their conservatee’s income and finances under their care within the first year of being appointed. Then again, every two years, until the end of the conservatorship. Being meticulous and carefully keeping track of all financial paperwork over the years is an important part of being a conservator.

Why Work With a Legal Professional?

A conservator’s duties to the person and/or their estate can be complex, and even simple missteps can act as immense liabilities. The conservator's role is an important one for many adults who cannot manage their personal or financial responsibilities.

Still, even conservators may need help determining their exact duties and what is required of them. If you have been appointed as someone’s conservator or are seeking an appointment, be sure to get professional legal help to understand better what your responsibilities and powers are under local law.

Share This Post

Why Our Living Trust Law Firm & Probate Attorneys?

Founded in 1975 by L. Rob Werner and serving California for over 48 years, our dedicated attorneys are available for clients, friends, and family members to receive the legal help they need and deserve. You can trust in our experience and reputation to help navigate you through your unique legal matters.

Whether you need help creating a living trust or navigating probate, our living trust law firm's compassionate team of estate planning lawyers and probate lawyers are here to help you and ready to answer your questions.

Our goal is to make your case as easy as possible for you. Hiring a lawyer can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. From the moment you contact our firm, through the final resolution of your case, our goal is to make the process easy and understandable. We cannot change the fact that probate is a long and complicated process, but through our Werner Law Firm Difference, we strive to go out of our way to keep you informed of your case through every step of the way. We are constantly refining our processes and procedures for a more streamlined and calm client experience. Our goal is to have you feel like a burden was lifted from your shoulders, and that we made the whole process an easy one

If you're dealing with a legal matter, we urge you to schedule a free initial appointment today and join the many satisfied clients who have contacted Werner Law Firm.

Book an Initial Call Now

Join Our eNewsletter and our California Estate Planning and Probate Blog Digest

Werner Law Firm logo
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. See full disclaimer here.
Santa Clarita, CA Office

27433 Tourney Rd, Suite 200
Santa Clarita, California 91355

Los Angeles, CA Office

445 S. Figueroa St., Suite 3100
Los Angeles, California 90071

Bakersfield, CA Office

4900 California Ave, Tower B-210
Bakersfield, California 93309

Newport Beach, CA Office

23 Corporate Plaza Dr., Suite 150
Newport Beach, California 92660

Lancaster, CA Office

626 W Lancaster Blvd.,
Lancaster, California 93534

Pasadena, CA Office

35 North Lake Avenue, Suite 710
Pasadena, California 91101

Simi Valley, CA Office

2655 First St, Suite 250
Simi Valley, CA Office, California 93065

Encino, CA Office

15760 Ventura Blvd, Suite 700
Encino, California 91436

Oxnard, CA Office

300 E Esplanade Dr., 9th Floor
Oxnard, California 93036

Santa Barbara, CA Office

7 W. Figueroa St., Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93101

IMS - Estate Planning and Elder Law Practice Growth Advisors
Powered by