What does a conservator do?

A California resident who a court deems unable to care for themselves or handle their basic needs may be appointed a conservator. Most California residents are probably familiar with guardianships, which involve an adult who is given legal responsibility over a minor child or children.

A conservatorship works the same way, only conservatorships are designed for adults, rather than minor children. An adult who is appointed a conservator is called a conservatee.

A conservator may be appointed over a person or an estate. A conservator of the person will help with managing a conservatee’s daily physical and mental needs, while a conservator of the estate will manage the conservatee’s financial affairs.

Some of the things a conservator of either the person or the estate may do include:

  • Choose where the conservatee will live
  • Paying the conservatee’s bills
  • Making medical decisions for the conservatee

Additionally, a conservator generally has rights to confidential records of the conservatee. The purpose behind this is to ensure that the conservator has all available information to make choices in the best interests of the conservatee.

Decisions a conservator cannot make

A conservator does not have power over everything related to the conservatee. There are several things that a conservator may not do. They may not make major decisions such as deciding to place the conservatee in a mental health facility or other restrictive facility without a court order authorizing them to do so.

Some medical decisions cannot be made by a conservator. These can include treatments like sterilization or choosing to place the conservatee on certain drugs. In terms of finances, although a conservator is responsible for paying bills and managing the conservatee’s money, they must make reasonable decisions and cannot negligently manage the funds.

Before a conservatorship can be established, the conservatee must be given notice of the proposed conservatorship. They then have a right to speak with an attorney about their legal rights and options.