Conservatorship/GuardianshipDo you Know a Developmentally Disabled Adult Who Needs a Hand?  A California Limited Conservatorship May Help

December 2, 2020by RaxterLaw

Do you Know a Developmentally Disabled Adult Who Needs a Hand? 

A California Limited Conservatorship May Help

In a recent blog post we discussed the role of general conservatorships to help an adult over the age of 18 manage their health, welfare, and/or finances.  This type of conservatorship is designed to help adults who are seriously impaired and unable to manage many, if not all, life skills.

Limited Conservatorships for the Developmentally Disabled

But what if your loved one is only partially impaired?  In California, if you are caring for an adult who is developmentally disabled, a limited conservatorship offers you the tools to care for such a person.

Who qualifies as a “developmentally disabled” adult?  A “developmentally disabled” adult has an IQ of less than 70 or has been diagnosed with autism or another qualifying disease.  Whether an adult is “developmentally disabled” is determined by the regional center in the county where the adult lives.

Who Can Act as a Limited Conservator?

Usually parents or siblings of the conservatee act as limited conservators.  But any responsible adult may act in that role if approved by the court after a hearing.  It is not unusual to have two co-conservators.

Indeed, having two conservators may be the best approach so that there are checks and balances on the conduct of each one.  Additionally, should one conservator die, another will still be in place to care for the disabled adult.  This is often the case when a family has one parent and one sibling as co-conservators so there is continuity if the parent dies before the disabled adult.

How do I Become a Limited Conservatee?

To become a limited conservator, you must petition the court and ask it to appoint you to that position.  While you do not need an attorney to file the petition, your life might be easier if you retain one.  There are a host of steps to take and forms to fill out if you tackle the job on your own.  For an example of the forms required to establish a limited conservatorship you can view a step by step guide to requesting a limited conservatorship, click here and scroll down to item 16.

Once you are appointed conservator, you will remain conservator until the disabled adult passes away or the court orders a change.

What if the Disabled Adult Does Not Want a Conservator?

If a disabled adult wants to oppose the conservatorship petition or the powers requested in the conservatorship petition, he or she may do so.  A court appointed attorney will represent them throughout the legal proceeding. The petitioner by and through their own attorney will present evidence of the disability or the need for the powers requested. After a trial, the court will determine the need of the conservatorship based on the evidence and medical reports.

How Does the Conservator Get Paid?

A limited conservator does not get paid for managing various tasks for the conservatee.  They can, however, ask the conservatee’s estate to reimburse them for any costs and attorneys fees they may have incurred during the preceding year of their service.

The Constraints on a Limited Conservatorship

A developmentally disabled individual can manage many life skills but needs help with some.  Skilled enough to manage some life tasks, the developmentally challenged adult’s needs are more limited than those faced by a person needing a general conservatorship.  (For more on general conservatorships, please read our earlier blog post, Conservatorship:  What It Is, and How It Works.)   Hence the name “limited conservatorship.”

The court can limit the conservator’s powers to helping the developmentally disabled adult with only those tasks she or he cannot manage alone.

Thus, for instance a limited conservator may have power over the following:

  • Deciding where the adult will live (but, NOT in a locked facility);
  • Looking at the adult’s confidential records and papers;
  • Signing a contract for the adult;
  • Giving or withholding consent for most medical treatment (NOT sterilization and certain other procedures);
  • Making decisions about the adult’s education and vocational training;
  • Giving or withholding consent to the adult’s marriage (Courts are conservative in granting this power to the conservator);
  • Controlling the adult’s social and sexual contacts and relationships;
  • Managing the adult’s financial affairs.

What if the Conservator Takes Advantage of the Conservatee?

If the conservator mishandles or takes financial advantage of the disabled adult, the court will initiate legal proceedings to determine if the conservator should be replaced.  The state may bring criminal charges against the conservator if he or she has physically abused or taken financial advantage of the adult in his or her care.

Who Oversees the Limited Conservator?

The Superior Court Probate Department that issues the limited conservatorship oversees that conservator.  It is aided in that regard by the Court Investigators Office.  One year after the conservatorship is put into place, the investigators’ office will review the case and visit with the conservatee.  The investigator will make a report to the court after it concludes its investigation.

After the first two years, and then annually thereafter, the conservator also must file a written report with the court about how the case is being managed.

Independence – the Greatest Gift We Can Give

Developmentally disabled adults lead rich and loving lives, despite – indeed, sometimes because of — their disabilities.  The independence they achieve throughout life, thanks to teachers, parents, and friends, is a gift to be cherished and nurtured on their behalf.  For those tasks that prove to be too much for the disabled adult, a limited conservatorship can make their lives easier and less demanding, giving them help where needed, while leaving them richly endowed with their independence in other venues.

If you know of an adult who might benefit from a having a limited conservator in his or her life, please do not hesitate to call.  We will be happy to meet with you and discuss the ways in which a trusted and compassionate conservator can enrich their life and ease your concerns about the quality of life they lead.

Call today.  We can help!

Menifee Office – (951) 226-5294

Riverside Office – (951) 688-3800


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