• Emergency Conservatorships
  • Temporary Conservatorships
  • Contested Conservatorships
  • Appointment or Removal of Conservators

A conservatorship is a court proceeding designed to protect elders or dependent adults who may be unable to care for themselves or to resist fraud or undue influence.  In a typical conservatorship proceeding, a family member or friend files a petition with the court in which he or she asks to be named the “conservator” for the elder, who is referred to as the “proposed conservatee.”  A “conservator of the person” is a person granted authority by the court to make decisions regarding the personal care of the conservatee.  The conservator of the person would typically make decisions about the conservatee’s medical affairs, living arrangements, and social life.  A “conservator of the estate” is granted the authority to make financial decisions for the elder.  One person can serve as both the conservator of the estate and conservator of the person; however, sometimes it is prudent or convenient for different individuals to serve in these roles.

Role of Conservatee

The conservatee is served with the court papers, and is typically required to attend the court hearings. When the conservatorship case begins, a court investigator will interview the proposed conservatee, as well as family and friends. The court investigator files a report with the court with a recommendation about whether a conservatorship is appropriate.  The court can grant a conservatorship petition when a proposed conservatee is unable to properly provide for his or her needs for any of the following:

  • physical health
  • food, clothing, and shelter; or
  • substantially manage his or her own financial resources; or
  • resist fraud or undue influence

A “voluntary conservatorship” is one in which the elder agrees that he or she should be conserved.  Most voluntary conservatorships can be concluded within a few months at a reasonable cost.

Contested Conservatorship

In a “contested conservatorship,” either the elder or a family member or friend objects to the conservatorship.  The “objector” often argues that there is no need for a conservatorship – that the elder can care for him or herself.  Even when the parties agree that a conservatorship is necessary, they often disagree about who should serve as conservator.

In a contested conservatorship the court will usually appoint an attorney to represent the proposed conservatee if he or she does not have an attorney.  If the parties cannot reach an agreement about whether a conservatorship is necessary, then the elder has the right to a jury trial to determine whether he or she needs to be conserved.

Contested Conservatorships Are Often Costly

Contested conservatorships can be particularly expensive and emotionally difficult proceedings, with children litigating against parents or among themselves.  They can quickly become expensive because three attorneys are often involved: one for the proposed conservator/petitioner, one for the objector, and one for the proposed conservatee.  All of these attorneys may apply to the court to be paid with the conservatee’s funds.

Our attorneys have been involved in many conservatorship cases and specialize in contested conservatorships.  Our objective in these proceedings is to protect the elder and prevent his or her estate from being depleted by unnecessary legal fees.


Barr & Young represents clients throughout Northern California, including Danville, Walnut Creek, San Francisco, Pleasant Hill, Livermore, and Oakland.


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