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What is a conservator?

A conservator is a person appointed by a probate court after a court hearing, and given power and responsibility to handle some or all of another individual’s financial and/or medical affairs.

When is a conservatorship appropriate?

The probate court may appoint a conservator for an individual unable to handle his or her financial affairs effectively. If the individual is not the petitioner, it must also be shown the individual is wasting money, disregarding upkeep of property, or not spending sufficient money to satisfy his or her own care needs, or the needs of dependents.

What are the conservator’s responsibilities?

The conservator has a responsibility to spend and invest the money for the benefit of the individual. The conservator can decide where the conservatee lives and certain health care decisions.

How complicated serving as conservator will be, and how much time it will take, depend on a number of factors: the value of the property, the types of assets, the needs of the individual, whether there are dependents, and the extent of cooperation among family members.

As a conservator, there are specific powers and responsibilities you have. You should be aware of these powers and duties and how you are to exercise and fulfill them.

When an individual loses control of his or her income and property, it has obvious effects on his or her sense of independence. You should recognize this, and try to minimize its negative effects.

As a conservator, you have the right to hire professionals such as lawyers, accountants, and investment advisors to help you with your tasks.

What is the overriding duty of a conservator?

A conservator owes a fiduciary duty to the individual, a duty of the highest trust. The conservator must use care in handling property, be prudent in making investments, and use assets only for the benefit of the individual and his or her dependents. A conservator must account to the court for all money and property received, all money spent and each property sold.

A conservator has title to the property, but does not own it. Rather, a conservator manages it for the benefit of the individual.

What are some actions to avoid?

  • Do not commingle conservatorship assets with your own. Do not treat the individual’s property as your own in any way.
  • Do not put any of the individual’s money in your own bank account. You must establish a bank account or accounts separate from your own. Do not set up a joint bank account.
  • Avoid self-dealing unless you first get court permission. Do not sell anything to the individual or purchase anything from him or her. Do not take a loan from conservatorship funds. Do not use conservatorship funds to pay for your own personal bills and needs.
  • Except for receiving court approved fees for services, neither the conservator nor any of your family should financially benefit from the conservatorship.

Are there other general duties?

  • Respect any limitations on your powers set forth in law or in your letters of authority. Encourage independence and self-reliance of the individual, to the extent possible. This may mean allowing the individual direct access to some funds to spend as he or she likes.
  • Keep financial affairs of the individual private, except when necessary to disclose them as part of financial transactions or in fulfilling duties to report to the court or to interested parties.
  • Fulfill reporting requirements to the court – an inventory and annual accounts – in a timely and accurate manner.

How do you find a private conservator?

  • Contact the Professional Fiduciary Association of California by e-mail at pfac@amgroup.us or dial toll free 1-844-211-3151