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How Do You Get a Conservatorship in California?

How Do You Get a Conservatorship in California?

A conservatorship is an arrangement whereby one person or organization, known as the conservator, manages the personal life and/or finances of an impaired adult, who is known as the conservatee. A California court creates this arrangement after an adversarial hearing. Perhaps the most famous California conservatorship involved the pop star Britney Spears and her father.

What Is a Conservatorship in California and When Is It Necessary?

If you are worried about managing your personal life and finances after you become impaired, you can start making arrangements now, before you become impaired. A trust of a power of attorney can normally accomplish most or all of the purposes of conservatorship without court involvement.

If you wait until after you become incapacitated, however, you cannot create a trust or a power of attorney. Instead, someone else must petition the court to establish a conservatorship for you. Remember, guardianship and conservatorship are different. Guardianships are for minors under the age of 18.

Types of Conservatorships

California courts generally prefer to establish the least restrictive conservatorship that is possible under the circumstances. For this reason, different types of conservatorship are possible, depending on the conservatee’s degree and type of impairment. The exact details of the terms of a conservatorship appear in the court order that creates the conservatorship. Following are descriptions of three different types of conservatorships.

General Conservatorship

Courts usually establish general conservatorships for the benefit of the elderly. Conservatees may be mentally or physically incapacitated, or both. The conservatee’s capacity must be severely compromised before a court will establish a general conservatorship.

Limited Conservatorship

Limited Conservatorship

Courts usually set up limited conservatorships for adults who became disabled before they turned 18. Common qualifying disabilities include autism, mental retardation (IQ under 70), cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and certain other conditions. The conservatorship is limited because the conservator does not have the broad powers of a general conservator.

LPS Conservatorship

An LPS conservatorship, also known as a mental health conservatorship, is an arrangement whereby the conservator provides or oversees comprehensive medical and mental health treatment for a conservatee who suffers from a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

How to Obtain a Conservatorship in California

An experienced California conservatorship lawyer knows how to file for a conservatorship in California. Following is a listing of the basic steps:

How to File for a Conservatorship in California

  1. File a petition for conservatorship.
  2. File a confidential supplemental information form.
  3. File duties of conservator form.
  4. Serve the notice of petition.
  5. Attend a court hearing.
  6. Learn a new role.

Below is an elaboration of each of these steps.

File a Petition for Conservatorship

You must file a petition for conservatorship in the court with jurisdiction over the conservatee’s place of residence. The petition for conservatorship is a set of documents that can be quite demanding. They require information about the conservator and the conservatee, the reasons for the conservatorship, and a statement of why other care alternatives would not be better.

File a Confidential Supplemental Information Form

The confidential supplemental information form should describe exactly why the conservatee cannot take care of their own needs. It should also specify what the conservatee can and cannot do on their own. The form might specify, for example, that the conservatee can manage their personal affairs but not their financial affairs.

File a Confidential Conservatorship Screening Form

File a Confidential Conservatorship Screening Form

If you want the court to name you a conservator, you must file the confidential conservatorship screening form. You must divulge your relationship with the proposed conservatee. You will also have to divulge information about your criminal background if any, and any other matters relating to your personal history that might affect your competency as a conservator.

File a Duties of Conservator Form

The duties of conservator form tell you exactly what your duties will be as a conservator, including any information that you must periodically provide to the court. You must acknowledge that you have read this form as well as the Handbook for Conservators.

Serve Notice of the Petition

A third person (not the proposed conservator) must personally serve written notice of the proposed conservatorship on the conservatee. This notice consists of a citation and a copy of the petition for conservatorship. Family members of the conservatee must also be notified.

Attend a Court Hearing

The proposed conservatee must attend at least one court hearing unless they lack the capacity to do so. The judge will appoint a lawyer for the conservatee. The court will approve or deny the petition for conservatorship after a hearing in which the proposed conservatee or their lawyer have their say in the matter. If the court approves the conservatorship, it will issue the new conservator Letters of Conservatorship.

Learn the New Role

The job of a conservator is not easy, and the duties are not always straightforward. If you are a conservator, you must use your Letters of Conservatorship to deal with banks and other official institutions to fulfill your obligations. Be sure you understand the Handbook for Conservators.

Full List of Documents You Need to File Conservatorship in California

Full List Of Documents You Need To File Conservatorship in California

Establishing a California conservatorship takes a mountain of paperwork. Following is a list of the main documents required.

How to Apply for a Conservatorship in California

  • GC-020: Notice of Hearing-Guardianship or Conservatorship;
  • GC-020 (MA): Attachment to Notice of Hearing Proof of Service by Mail;
  • GC-079: Pre-Move Notice of Proposed Change of Personal Residence;
  • GC-310: Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator;
  • GC-312: Confidential Supplemental Information (Probate Conservatorship);
  • GC-314: Confidential Conservator Screening Form (Probate Conservatorship);
  • GC-320: Citation for Conservatorship and Proof of Service;
  • GC-335: Capacity Declaration-Conservatorship;
  • GC-335A: Dementia Attachment to Capacity Declaration-Conservatorship;
  • GC-340: Order Appointing Probate Conservator;
  • GC-348: Duties of Conservator and Acknowledgement of Receipt of Handbook;
  • GC-350: Letters of Conservatorship;
  • MC-025: Attachment to Judicial Council Form.

Local courts may demand additional documents as well.

After the Establishment of a Conservatorship

Your appointment as a conservator is only the beginning of your journey. You will be expected to fulfill the following responsibilities during your term of office.

Wealth and Property Management

You must deposit a monetary bond with the court. The bond serves as an insurance policy for the conservatee should you abscond with the property the court has entrusted to you. You must file an inventory with the court. You must also file a General Plan for the conservatorship and, if the conservatee has any real property, you must manage it responsibly.

The One Year Review

After one year and every two years thereafter, you will have to file a report of income and expenses of the conservatorship assets. A probate examiner will review it, and an investigator will interview the conservatee about your performance.

Is It Possible to Have Non-Family Conservators?

Is It Possible To Have Non-Family Conservators?

In most cases, a family member of the conservatee serves as the conservator. In certain cases, this is not possible, however. In other cases, it is not the conservatee’s preference or is not in the conservatee’s best interests.

When this happens, the court can appoint a professional conservator from the local Public Guardian office or from a nonprofit organization. Such a conservator must be licensed by the State of California, and they are entitled to payment for their services.


If you have been appointed to a voluntary conservatorship in California, or if you are contemplating seeking such a position, you might need the assistance of a California conservatorship attorney to secure your appointment and to keep you out of trouble after you are appointed. You might also need help avoiding a conservatorship for yourself by doing some advanced planning right now.

Contact Barr & Douds, either online or by telephone at (925) 660-7544.

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