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SUMMARY

Limited conservatorships are for adults with developmental disabilities. If the adult you are trying to help does not have a developmental disability but needs help taking care of him/herself or his/her finances, see the About Conservatorships page on this website. If the adult you are trying to help has a serious brain disorder, see the LPS Conservatorship page on this website.


WHAT IS A LIMITED CONSERVATORSHIP?

A limited conservatorship is a court proceeding where a judge gives a responsible person, called a limited conservator, certain rights to care for another adult who has a developmental disability (DD), called a limited conservatee.


IS A LIMITED CONSERVATORSHIP DIFFERENT FROM A MENTAL HEALTH (LPS) CONSERVATORSHIP?

Yes. An LPS conservatorship is only for people who are seriously mentally ill and need special care (usually placement in a locked facility and/or very powerful drugs to control behavior). But, if a person has a developmental disability, s/he may need a limited conservatorship, not an LPS conservatorship. Developmentally disabled people can usually do many things an LPS conservatee cannot do. So, the Court limits the limited conservators’ powers. See our LPS Conservatorship page for more information.


WHO DECIDES IF THE ADULT IS DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED (DD)?

The Court will decide if the proposed conservatee is developmentally disabled.

Generally, a person qualifies as developmentally disabled if s/he has an IQ less than 70 or is diagnosed with autism. Other conditions can qualify too.


WHAT KINDS OF DECISIONS DOES A LIMITED CONSERVATOR MAKE?

At the hearing, the judge will say exactly what rights the conservator has. Because developmentally disabled people (abbreviated as DD, below) can usually do many things on their own, the judge will only give the limited conservator power to do things the conservatee cannot do without help.

The conservator may:

  • Decide where the DD adult will live (but, NOT in a locked facility).
  • Look at the DD’s adult confidential records and papers.
  • Sign a contract for the DD adult.
  • Give or withhold consent for most medical treatment (NOT sterilization and certain other procedures).
  • Make decisions about the DD adult’s education and vocational training.
  • Place the DD adult at a state hospital for the developmentally disabled Give or withhold consent to the DD adult’s marriage.
  • Control the DD adult’s social and sexual contacts and relationships.
  • Manage the DD adult’s financial affairs.

CAN I HAVE THE CONSERVATEE STERILIZED IF THE COURT GIVES ME MEDICAL POWERS?

No. You must have a special hearing and a doctor must show evidence that sterilization is the least restrictive medical procedure available that will protect the DD person from becoming pregnant or causing a pregnancy. (Probate Code §1950 et seq .)


WILL THE COURT GIVE ME AUTHORITY OVER THE DD ADULT’S SOCIAL AND SEXUAL LIFE?

Not usually. The only exception is when the DD adult is in danger because of the choices s/he makes in his/her social or sexual life.

For example, if a DD adult is in an abusive relationship, the Court may give you the power to control his/her relationships. In this case, you could ask the court for a restraining order on behalf of the limited conservatee.

It is also rare for the Court to give you the power to consent or withhold consent to the conservatee’s marriage.


CAN I PAY MYSELF A SALARY FROM THE LIMITED CONSERVATEE’S FUNDS?

No. Unless you have a court order and you are also the conservator of the estate. When you send your annual report to the Court, you can ask to be compensated for your time and any legal fees you may have paid to help you manage the estate.


DOES THE COURT SUPERVISE THE LIMITED CONSERVATOR?

Yes. The Superior Court Probate Department will oversee the limited conservator. Someone from the Court Investigator's Office will review your case one year after the conservatorship is granted, then every two years after that. The investigator will call you to update the Court’s file.

The investigator will also visit the conservatee.


IF I AM THE LIMITED CONSERVATOR, CAN I BE SUED IF THE CONSERVATEE HURTS ANOTHER PERSON OR DAMAGES SOMEONE’S PROPERTY?

No. Unless you are found personally negligent for the damage caused. But, you can be charged with a crime if you take financial advantage of the limited conservatee or, if you willfully neglect or abuse him/her.


DOES MY LAWYER ALSO REPRESENT THE CONSERVATEE?

No. The Court will appoint a public defender to represent the interests of the proposed limited conservatee and to review the petition for limited conservatorship.

These services are free, unless the proposed conservatee can afford them.

WHO CAN FILE FOR CONSERVATORSHIP?

Conservators are usually parents, sisters, or brothers. But, any responsible adult can act as conservator. And, there can be more than one limited conservator.

It’s a good idea to have at least one parent, and a brother, sister or other relative act as co-limited conservators. This way, if one conservator dies, the DD adult will still have another conservator to rely on.


WHO CAN BE APPOINTED AS LIMITED CONSERVATOR?

Conservators are usually parents, sisters, or brothers. But, any responsible adult can act as conservator. And, there can be more than one limited conservator.

It’s a good idea to have at least one parent, and a brother, sister or other relative act as co-limited conservators. This way, if one conservator dies, the DD adult will still have another conservator to rely on.


DO I NEED A LAWYER TO PETITION THE COURT FOR A LIMITED CONSERVATORSHIP?

No. But, it is a good idea to talk to an experienced lawyer or to ask a lawyer to review your forms. You can find a probate lawyer from the Lawyer Referral Services list located on the Self-Help Resources webpage. You can also get help at the Self-Help Center. See the Self-Help Center page with location, hours, phone number and hours.


WHAT IF I WANT TO BE THE LIMITED CONSERVATOR BUT I CAN'T AFFORD A LAWYER?

The Self-Help Center will help you fill out your court forms.


WHEN SHOULD I APPLY FOR LIMITED CONSERVATORSHIP?

If you are trying to establish a limited conservatorship for someone who will soon be 18, it’s a good idea to start the process more than three months before the DD person’s 18th birthday. Parents, brothers and sisters who may act as limited conservators should talk to the DD person so they know what is best for his/her medical care, living arrangements, education and training.


HOW DO I ESTABLISH A LIMITED CONSERVATORSHIP?

Step 1

Fill out your forms.

You can download the forms by clicking on the form number below. Or, get them from a stationery store, bookstore, or the Self-Help Center.

The state forms are also on the Judicial Council website: www.courts.ca.gov/  . Tip: Choose "Probate-Guardianships and Conservatorships" from the drop-down menu.

Fill out the state forms listed below:

  • GC-310  Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator
  • GC-020  Notice of Hearing
  • GC-312  Confidential Supplemental Information
  • GC-320  Citation for Conservatorship
  • GC-348  Duties of Conservator
  • GC-314  Confidential Conservator Screening
  • GC-340  Order Appointing Conservator
  • GC-350  Letters of Conservatorship

If you or the proposed conservatee cannot afford to pay the court fees, fill out these forms, too:

  • FW-001  Request to Waive Court Fees
  • FW-003  Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court)

If there is an urgent need to establish a conservatorship, fill out these temporary conservatorship forms:

  • GC-110  Petition for Appointment of Temporary Conservator
  • GC-140  Order Appointing Temporary Conservator
  • GC-150  Letters of Temporary Conservatorship

There are special rules for temporary conservators. See Probate Code Section 2253 .

Step 2

Get a hearing date and a case number

The clerk can give you a date for the conservatorship hearing after you file your forms. If your situation is urgent, fill out the forms to apply for a temporary conservatorship. (See Step 1).

Step 3

File your forms

Make two copies of all your forms, including the Proof of Service, and eFile them or you may take them to the Probate Clerk’s Office at: Probate Clerk’s Office,700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana, CA 92701. . The clerk will ask you to pay a filing fee. (See the local fee schedule and check probate filing fees.)

The clerk will stamp your originals and both sets of copies, and will send one set of the copies to the Court Investigation Unit. They will investigate your case and make a recommendation to the Court before your hearing. The other set of copies is for your records.

Step 4

Serve your forms

You must “give notice by mail” to certain people including:

  • grandparents,
  • parents,
  • brothers and sisters,
  • children,
  • grandchildren,
  • the Regional Center (see below), and
  • spouse.

This means someone over 18 – not you – must serve (give) copies of the court forms to those people at least 15 days before the hearing. That way, they will know you are asking to be the conservator. You must do this even if you think those people don’t care or may disagree with you.

Someone over 18—not you—must also “give personal notice” to the proposed conservatee. You can have a friend or family member do this, or you can hire a professional process server. The server must serve copies of these forms:

  • Notice of Hearing
  • Petition for Appointment of Conservator

There are rules for giving notice. You must follow them carefully or you may have to go back to Court. The person who serves the forms by mail must fill out and sign page two of GC-020  , then give it back to you. This is your Proof of Service. Make copies of both pages of this form and file it with the clerk with your other papers.

If you have questions about how to serve your forms, talk to a probate examiner, the probate staff attorney at the court, or contact the court’s Self-Help Center.

You must also give notice 30 days before the hearing per Probate Code 1822. Regional Center of Orange County.1525 N. Tustin Avenue, Suite 300 Santa Ana, CA 92705

Step 5

File Order Appointing Conservator

If you haven’t done so already, file form GC-340  , your proposed Order Appointing Conservator. Bring or mail it to the Probate Clerk’s Office (at 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana, CA 92701) at least 4 days before your hearing. If you haven’t done so already, fill out form GC-350  , Letters of Conservatorship. You can take this form to the hearing.

Step 6

Go to the orientation class

The class is scheduled every Tuesday, except holidays from 3:15 to 5:00 p.m. at the Central Justice Center, 700 Civic Center Drive West, Room A-100, Santa Ana, CA 92701 in the 1st Floor Jury Assembly Room. You can choose the day you attend, or attend the class the day of the hearing. If you attend on the date of the hearing, you cannot receive your orders or Letters of conservatorship until attendance of this class is verified. No reservations are required. The court does not validate parking.

It is required that you bring the Conservatorship Handbook with you to the class. It can be purchased for $20.00 from the Probate Clerk’s office on the first floor. You may also send a written request by mail with a self-addressed 9x12, postage paid envelope. The postage must be in the amount of $6.00 to ensure proper delivery. The book is also available online.

Please bring a copy of your petition for appointment to the class; it will be helpful when completing your attendance sheet and you will need the attorney information during the class.

Step 7

Go to the hearing

The time and date of your hearing are listed on GC-020  , #4. Go to the courtroom and wait for your case to be called. Watch the other cases called before you so you will know what to do. When your case is called, step forward with the DD adult. If the DD adult does not come, you must have an acceptable medical excuse from a doctor.

The judge may ask you some questions. It will only take a few minutes. The DD adult may not understand what the hearing is about. A public defender or court-appointed attorney will meet with the DD adult before to the hearing to explain what will happen. If the judge approves the limited conservatorship, the clerk will give you a signed Order.

Step 8

After the hearing

Take the signed Order to the Probate Clerk’s Office downstairs. Also give the clerk:

  • if you need a bond, file the bond with the clerk.

The clerk will give you a filed copy of your Letters of Conservatorship.

Step 9

Your responsibilities as conservator

If you are conservator of the person, you must take care of the conservatee’s

  • food,
  • clothing,
  • shelter, and
  • well-being.

If you are conservator of the estate, you must:

  • manage and protect the conservatee’s assets,
  • make a list of all assets,
  • collect the conservatee’s income, and
  • pay the conservatee’s bills.

You have many other responsibilities, too. To learn more, talk to a lawyer. Or, read the Handbook for Conservators .


HOW LONG DOES THE LIMITED CONSERVATORSHIP LAST?

The limited conservatorship lasts until the court says otherwise or until the DD person dies.


WHAT IF THE LIMITED CONSERVATORS DO NOT ACT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CONSERVATEE?

The court investigator will review the case one year after the conservatorship is established, then every 2 years after that. If the court investigator’s report or other information suggests that one or more conservators are not acting in the best interest of the conservatee, the judge will issue an order to show cause.

If this happens, there will be a court hearing to decide if the conservator(s) should be removed and replaced. This is not a criminal hearing. But, if a conservator is suspected of taking physical or financial advantage of a conservatee, the State can file criminal charges.


WHAT IF I AM A LIMITED CONSERVATOR, DO I ALSO NEED A CONSERVATORSHIP OF THE ESTATE?

You do not need a conservatorship of the estate if:

  • The DD adult you care for gets public assistance, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security (SSA) but has no other assets, or
  • If the DD adult earns a wage.

But, you need a conservatorship of the estate if the DD adult has other assets, like an inheritance or a settlement from a lawsuit that is not in a special needs trust.

The Court supervises the conservator of the estate. One year after the conservatorship is established, then every 2 years after that, the conservator must file a report to show the Court how the money in the conservatorship is being managed and spent.


CAN I CHOOSE A LIMITED CONSERVATOR IN MY WILL OR LIVING TRUST?

No. Only the court can appoint a limited conservator.


WHAT IF THE LIMITED CONSERVATOR MOVES SOMEWHERE ELSE IN CALIFORNIA?

The limited conservators must give the Court and the Court Investigator's Office the new address.


WHAT IF THE LIMITED CONSERVATEE LEAVES THE STATE?

The limited conservatee can leave the state for visits or training without Court permission. But, the conservatee cannot move to a different state without getting the Court’s permission first.

If the Court gives the conservatee permission to move, you must petition for a new conservatorship in the state the conservatee moves to. You must do this within four months after leaving California.

Check the laws of the state the conservatee moves to so you will know what their requirements are, like whether or not you must also live in that state to be conservator.


WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?

Here are resources in Orange County:



© 2014 Superior Court of Orange County