Berge & Berge, LLP Blog

Friday, July 10, 2015

Minimizing Liability for Conservators

I was recently appointed as a conservator in California. What can I do to avoid unnecessarily exposing myself to liability? 

Serving as a conservator is oftentimes a thankless and grueling job. However, the role serves a vital purpose in protecting California’s vulnerable children and adults from risk and harm. As a conservator, it is important to follow California’s guidelines to the letter – particularly with regard to the handling of assets and financial transfers on behalf of the ward, as any improper intentional misconduct could lead to significant liability and loss of the role of conservator.

One of the first steps in serving as a conservator is often obtaining a conservator’s bond – which operates to insure the conservatee in the event of loss. If the conservatee’s next-of-kin, and the conservatee himself, consent to the arrangement, the bond may not be necessary. 

From there, a conservator must notify the ward’s banks, financial advisors, and any other individuals or institutions involved in the assets of the estate. This is accomplished by providing Letters of Conservatorship, which are issued after the conservatorship is officially ordered. Attempting to rearrange assets or otherwise access the estate assets could quickly trigger liability for the conservator. 

From there, a conservator must arrange for an inventory of the conservatee’s entire estate, which must be filed with the probate court within 90 days. Another way to avoid liability is to ensure the inventory is completely accurate and includes all real and valuable personal property belonging to the ward. From there, the conservator must make and follow a Plan for Conservatorship, which will cover the methods and techniques the conservator will use to ensure the assets are properly managed and prudently invested. 

One of the most common ways in which a conservator could face liability to a conservatee’s beneficiaries involves the mismanagement of estate funds. As conservator, one must ensure the conservatee is adequately cared for, has all monthly obligations met, has appropriate medical coverage, and is able to live on a reasonable budget. If a conservator fails to properly maintain the conservatee’s assets and the conservatee begins experiencing harm in the process, considerable liability – and even criminal financial culpability – could result. 

If you have questions about the conservatorship process in California, please do not hesitate to contact the San Jose and Santa Clara estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Berge & Berge, LLP today: (408)985-9918. 


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