Bay Area Guardianship and Conservatorship Attorneys
Founder and managing partner Jim Berge (pronounced burr-ghee) is a California Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a master’s degree in tax law and over 25 years of experience as an estate planning specialist. Whether you need to establish a trust for a child with special needs or determine a guardian for a minor child, our attorneys know how to use the law to provide compassionate guidance in determining the best interests of the children.
Berge & Berge serves residents of San Jose and the surrounding south San Francisco Bay Area. Email the firm or call (408)317-7579 to arrange an initial consultation. Our office is easy to get to and has free outdoor parking right next to our building.
When Should You Establish a Guardian for Your Child?
As part of Berge & Berge’s estate planning services, our attorneys can assist in establishing guardianship for a child. We can help determine the best course of action for the child’s care and estate in the event of untimely passing or a parent’s incapacity.
The court may establish a guardian to care for a child and/or their property, enabling an adult to legally make decisions on the child’s behalf. In the event of one parent’s passing, the court often appoints the surviving parent to be responsible for the child until they become a legal adult. In some cases, a relative, family friend, or another person invested in a child’s life may become their legal guardian or guardian of their estate.
Whether established for the child or their property, a guardian may:
- Manage a child’s money
- Maintain a safe living environment
- Provide physical and emotional care
- Feed, clothe, and educate the child
In becoming a legal guardian of a child, you accept the same physical and legal responsibilities a parent would have in caring for a child. You will become liable for mismanagement of their assets, inheritance, and any harm caused to the child, similar to becoming the conservator of an adult’s estate. You can consult with guardianship attorneys in the Bay Area to determine if you should consider establishing a guardian for your child.
When Is a Conservatorship Needed?
As an adult, you are responsible for handling your own affairs. The exception is if you are no longer considered competent.
Who qualifies for a conservatorship? This is determined by a judge and often occurs after a catastrophic accident or impairing illness. Some adults establish a trust in advance to determine the division of their children’s assets and/or guardianship. Others delay planning, effecting a conservatorship by the determination of California’s courts upon their physical or mental incapacitation.
A judge can put a conservatorship in place, which may include the following steps:
- Obtaining a bond: Like an insurance policy, a judge may require a bond for the annual income and liquid assets of a person’s estate, thereby holding the conservator accountable while protecting the one in conservatorship.
- Court monitoring: The court can monitor your loved one’s well-being, finances, and property. It may be necessary to submit a complete inventory and appraisal of your loved one’s assets to the court, along with a general plan for the conservatorship.
- One-year review: A year after the conservatorship went into effect, an accounting of all your loved one’s assets must be filed for review and approval by the court.
Sometimes, the person deemed in need of conservatorship does not want a family member in charge of their estate. Family members are sometimes either incapable or unavailable to serve as a conservator. Licensed professional and private conservators are available – our lawyers can assist you in appointing one to handle your assets or those of your loved one.
Special Needs Planning in the Bay Area
If you have a disabled adult child, you are likely to have increasing concern for them as you age. We help clients from San Jose and the south San Francisco Bay Area plan for the care of loved ones with special needs as part of our estate planning services.
We can help you plan for yourself or a:
- Disabled child
- Disabled spouse
- Disabled parent
If you are concerned about how to get care and pay for the care of a loved one who has suffered a stroke, Alzheimer’s or sudden illness, we can help.
At Berge & Berge, we specialize in helping people qualify for and maintain eligibility in California public benefit programs, including Medi-Cal, VA benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. In California, public benefits are granted to certain individuals by the government if found necessary under two conditions:
- Needs tested: Certain physical or social characteristics may qualify you for benefits.
- Means based: You may receive benefits if your financial situation meets certain criteria.
When necessary, our attorneys can work with you to receive eligibility for public benefits such as medical care, financial support, disability payments and death benefits.
Helping People With Special Needs Trusts
If you are a person with a disability or wish to plan care for someone with a developmental disability or medical condition, we can help ensure that you receive a plan that works now and in the future. We can also help you maintain your plan or administer your trust.
Our lawyers can assist you in planning through a special needs trust, which may include:
- Special Needs trust — Typically found in an estate planning situation where an inheritance is involved, this can preserve your loved one’s public benefits while providing additional financial benefits to him or her. Managed by an appointed trustee, the grantor can predetermine how assets are distributed to the person with special needs.
- Emergency assistance — In cases where planning has not taken effect, our lawyers can help people with disabilities after receiving an inheritance, after receiving a settlement or upon winning a lawsuit. We can create a trust and petition the court for its approval, thereby protecting your loved one and his or her newfound finances.
Our attorneys have extensive experience in estate planning services. Our mission is to protect both those who are responsible for the care of another and those with disabilities.
Contact Us for Your Consultation
If you are considering special needs planning and have questions about Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medi-Cal, VA benefits or any California public benefit, our experienced attorneys can help provide guidance, advice and counsel, as well as compassion and sensitivity to your situation.
Our compassionate Bay Area conservatorship attorneys serve to meet your needs through estate planning services by establishing your wishes before a catastrophic event. We can help you protect your wishes, assets, and loved ones.