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What Happens to a Conservatorship Upon Death?

A general conservatorship usually continues until the conserved person (called the “conservatee”) dies. Courts and conservatorship attorneys avoid the term “permanent conservatorship” because it suggests that the conservatee will never regain their independence. However, in most cases-particularly those involving elderly conservatees-that’s exactly what happens. This article explores the role of the conservator of the estate after death.

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How Long Does a Conservatorship Typically Last?

According to California Probate Code §1860(a), a conservatorship continues until it is terminated by the death of the conservatee or through a court order. Thus, upon the conservatee’s demise, the conservatorship automatically concludes by operation of law.

However, it’s important to note that the conservator still maintains the responsibility of safeguarding and preserving the estate after the conservatee’s passing. This duty persists until the estate is handed over to the personal representative of the conservatee’s estate or disposed of in accordance with the applicable legal provisions, as outlined in California Probate Code §2467.

Is a Final Accounting Required?

A final accounting, to be composed in two parts, is still required under California Probate Code §2620(b) for conservatorships of the estate:

The final accounting of the guardian or conservator following the death of the ward or conservatee shall include a court accounting for the period that ended on the date of death and a separate accounting for the period subsequent to the date of death.

Also, California Rule of Court §7.1052(c) states that

“[a] conservator of the estate whose administration is terminated by operation of law or by court order must file and obtain the court’s approval of a final account of the administration.”

The court continues to have jurisdiction over the conservatorship after the death of the conservatee for the purposes of “settling the accounts of the guardian or conservator or for any other purpose incident to the enforcement of the judgments and orders of the court upon such accounts or upon the termination of the relationship.” California Probate Code §2630.

 

Can the Final Accounting be Waived?

According to California Conservatorship Practice (CEB), “no express statutory authority exists” regarding waiver of final accountings. §21.59A. It continues,

“If the interested persons have capacity and do not want to incur the expense and delay of an accounting, there appears no reason that one should be required.”

However, the guide also notes that in the case of a probate administration,

What Happens When the Conservator Simultaneously Serves as a Personal Representative?

If the personal representative and the conservator are the same person, the court may allow a waiver of the conservatorship accounting only if the waiver is also executed by the beneficiaries of the former conservat[ee]’s estate. (California Conservatorship Practice (CEB) §21.59A)

When the conservator also holds the role of a personal representative, certain legal and practical considerations come into play. The combined responsibilities of the conservator and personal representative can create a complex situation. The personal representative, who handles the administration of the estate after the individual’s death, may need to transition from their role as conservator. During this transition, additional duties may arise for the personal representative. These can include:

  • Filing necessary documents with the court to terminate the conservatorship;
  • Gathering and inventorying the assets of the estate;
  • Distributing the assets to the appropriate beneficiaries;
  • Settling outstanding debts and obligations of the estate;
  • Filing tax returns for the estate;
  • Communicating with heirs and beneficiaries regarding the transition and estate matters;
  • Providing an accounting of the estate’s financial transactions;
  • Resolving any potential disputes or challenges to the estate.

Contact a California Conservatorship Lawyer Today

Local rules differ widely throughout the Bay Area, so conservators in San Francisco may have a different procedure than conservators in Walnut Creek or another city in Contra Costa County. Alameda County, in particular, has unusual ex parte procedures that affect conservatorships, probate, trust and estate disputes, and elder abuse cases arising in Oakland, Berkeley, Livermore, Pleasanton, Castro Valley, Dublin, Fremont, and other cities in Alameda County.

If you find yourself seeking answers regarding the fate of a conservatorship following the passing of a protected individual, we are here to assist you. Reach out to Barr & Douds Attorneys today and discover how our expertise can support you in navigating the complexities of concluding a conservatorship.

Loren Barr
by Loren Barr
Updated: May 30, 2023

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