The basics of conservatorship in California

Although it may be uncomfortable to think about, we will all grow old and there may come a time when many of us will find ourselves unable to care for ourselves on a daily basis. While this can include the physical care of an individual, it can also include the maintenance of one's financial affairs. When a person become incapacitated and is unable to care for his or her financial estate, the court may create a conservatorship. A conservatorship allows an individual known as a conservator to manage the financial affairs for an incapacitated individual to ensure that the estate is not abused while the individual who is being held in conservatorship is incapacitated.

There are some strict legal processes in place to ensure that a conservatorship is managed appropriately. First, a bond must be posted, which is held as a sort of insurance. In the event that the estate is mishandled, the court can order the bond to be used to reimburse the individual who is being held in the conservatorship. Additionally, the court will order that an inventory and appraisal of the estate's assets be filed within 90 days of the creation of the conservatorship. This helps establish a foundation to which the court can refer when analyzing the progress of the conservatorship.

At the end of the conservatorship's first year, an investigation and accounting of the estate will occur to ensure that the conservator is handling financial matters appropriately. He or she must turn over all documentation of income and expenses, and he or she may also be subjected to questioning by an investigator.

Although the court can appoint a conservator after an individual becomes incapacitated, the matter can be settled well before then through an individual's estate plan. By utilizing a durable power of attorney or trust to create a conservatorship in the event of incapacitation, an individual can rest at ease knowing that his or her financial affairs will be handled by a trusted individual in the event that he or she is unable to make decisions that impact the estate.

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