Conservatorships are a safe way to provide for the needs of adults who are unable to care for themselves in one or multiple ways. In California, two types of conservatorships are recognized: general and limited.

What is a General Conservatorship?

General conservatorships are often used for aging adults who have lost the ability to make decisions regarding their own medical care, provide their own daily care, or handle their financial affairs. The state may set up a conservatorship of the person, in which the conservator provides for the person’s physical health, shelter, food, and medical care. It may also set up a conservatorship of the estate, in which the conservator manages the person’s finances and assets.

In a general conservatorship of the person, conservators have several key responsibilities:

  • Deciding where the individual will live
  • Figuring out where and when the individual will receive medical treatment
  • Providing for the individual’s daily needs, including food, hygiene, enrichment, socialization, and education

What Is a Limited Conservatorship?

Limited conservatorships are typically reserved for people with developmental disabilities. This is a solution for individuals who are disabled prior to becoming adults. While a general conservatorship offers blanket responsibility to the conservator in a general conservatorship, the goal of a limited conservatorship is to allow the individual to maintain as much independence as possible. For example, if the individual is able to take care of their daily needs and advocate for themselves medically but cannot manage their own finances, the limited conservatorship may only permit the conservator to manage the individual’s financial affairs. These conservatorships expire after one year but may be renewed each year as needed.

Depending on the needs of the individual, a limited conservatorship may include some or all of the following responsibilities:

  • Selecting a residence
  • Accessing and maintaining confidential documents and papers
  • Allowing or not allowing marriage
  • Entering into contracts
  • Educational decisions
  • Management of social relationships
  • Medical consent

Who May Become Conservator?

The answer to this question truly depends on the specific need and circumstances of the individual being served. In general, California courts prefer that the conservator be a family member if at all possible. If the individual does not have any close family members or none of their family members are willing to serve as conservator, a professional fiduciary may be the best choice to serve. Professional fiduciaries are licensed by the state of California and must carry a fiduciary bond. They work with the person being served with caring and compassion, and are experienced in handling the person’s finances.