Information for the Conservator

The court can say you are:

  • The conservator of a person,
  • The conservator of an estate, or
  • Both.

When the court chooses you as a conservator, you are responsible to the court. You take on certain jobs and responsibilities. The court can examine everything you do as a conservator. Talk to a lawyer about this. Click for help finding a lawyer.

It is important that you understand what your duties and responsibilities as a conservator will be. You can get more information in the Judicial Council's Handbook for Conservators. The law says you must have a copy of this handbook.


Duties of a Conservator of the Person

When the court chooses you as the conservator of a person, this means you:

  • Arrange for the conservatee’s care and protection;
  • Decide where the conservatee will live; and
  • Are in charge of the conservatee’s:
     
    • Meals,
    • Health care, 
    • Clothing, 
    • Personal care,
    • Housekeeping,
    • Transportation, 
    • Shelter, 
    • Recreation, and
    • Well-being.

  • Must get the court’s permission for certain decisions about the conservatee’s health care or living arrangements.
  • Must inform the court if the conservatee is moving and may need to get a court order allowing the move.
  • Must report to the court on the conservatee’s current status.
  • Must keep the court informed of any changes in your address or contact information.

Remember that being a conservator of the person does not automatically make you the conservator of the estate. If you want to be appointed conservator of the estate, you must petition the court either at the time of your petition to be appointed conservator of the person, or at a later date (by filing another petition, in the same way you did with the initial petition for appointment of conservator of the person).

Understanding Your Duties

Once you are appointed as conservator of the person, you have responsibilities or legal duties.  It is very important you understand these duties so that you can carry them out properly.

Figure out what the conservatee needs
You must figure out what the conservatee needs and how to meet those needs.

Decide where the conservatee will live
You can decide where the conservatee will live. But you must choose the least restrictive place. It has to be appropriate, safe, and comfortable for the conservatee. And it has to let the conservatee be as independent as possible.

  • You must tell the court every time the conservatee’s address changes at least 15 days before the move.
  • You cannot move the conservatee out of state.
  • You cannot put the conservatee in a mental health treatment facility. 
  • You may be able to put the conservatee in a special residential care facility with a secure fence around the property if the conservatee has dementia and the court agrees with you. BUT you have to make sure the facility:
    • Is appropriate,
    • Meets the conservatee’s special needs, and
    • Is not more restrictive than necessary.

Get health care for the conservatee
You are responsible for making sure that the conservatee’s health-care needs are taken care of.

You cannot give or deny consent for medical treatment if the conservatee does not agree, unless the court gives you that exclusive right. If the court gives you the power to approve the use of certain very strong medications to treat dementia, make sure the doctors try other, less intrusive treatments first.

Work with the conservator of the estate
If there is a conservator of the estate, you must work together to make sure the conservatee can pay for the care you arrange. The conservator of the estate must approve what you buy for the conservatee, or you may not get your money back. 

Duty to Disclose of Spouses and Domestic Partners
If you are married to, or the domestic partner of, the conservatee, you must tell the court about any court action you file that would end or change your marriage, or any act that would end your domestic partnership.
You must tell the court about these events no more than 10 days after they happen. File a notice with the court.

Get help from your lawyer and other resources.
Your lawyer will give you advice about what your job is, the limits of your power, the conservatee’s rights, and how to deal with the court. If you have legal questions, talk to your lawyer.

NOTE:  You cannot be sued if the conservatee hurts another person or damages someone’s property, unless you are personally negligent for the damage the conservatee causes.

If you do not have a lawyer, make sure you get help from local community resources in your area. See your Handbook for Conservators and any local supplement that your court may have. Ask the court clerk if your court has a local supplement to the handbook.

Duties of a Conservator of the Estate

The money and property the conservatee owns are called the conservatee’s “estate.”


When the court chooses you to be the conservator of an estate, you must:

  • Manage the conservatee’s finances;
  • Make a list of everything in the estate;
  • Take control of all assets;
  • Collect the conservatee’s income;
  • Pay the conservatee’s bills;
  • Make a plan to make sure the conservatee’s needs are met (your conservatorship plan);
  • Make a budget to show what the conservatee can afford;
  • Make sure the conservatee gets all the benefits he or she is eligible for;
  • Responsibly invest the conservatee’s money;
  • Protect the conservatee’s income and property;
  • Keep exact financial records; and
  • Make regular reports of the financial accounts to the court and to the conservatee regarding the management of the conservatee’s assets.

Understanding Your Duties
  

Managing the estate’s assets
In order to properly manage the conservatee’s assets, you must:  
  1. Make smart investments. Manage the estate’s property carefully. Remember: You are taking care of someone else’s property. Do NOT make risky investments.

  2. Keep estate assets separate. You must keep the estate’s money and property separate from anyone else’s, especially your own. When you open a bank account for the estate, the name on the account has to say that it is a conservatorship account and not your personal account.  
    • NEVER deposit estate money in your personal account.
    • NEVER mix estate money with yours or anyone else’s, even for a little while.
    • Stocks and bonds MUST be held in a name that shows they belong to the estate and not to you.

  3. Use interest-bearing accounts and other investments. You can set up checking accounts for everyday expenses. But the rest of the estate’s money must be in accounts that earn interest. You can deposit estate money in insured accounts. But do not put more than $100,000 in any one bank. Talk to a lawyer before you make any investments or change any investments the conservatee made before you were appointed.  

  4. Other restrictions. There are a lot of other limits on how you can handle the estate’s property. Unless you have a court order, you CANNOT:
    • Pay yourself or your lawyer with the estate’s money;
    • Give away any part of the estate; or
    • Borrow money from the estate.

If you do not get permission from the court when you have to, you may have to pay back the estate from your own money. And you may be removed as conservator. Talk to a lawyer about what the law says about sales, leases, mortgages, and investments.  

Keeping an inventory of estate property
If you are chosen to be conservator of an estate, you must make and keep a list of what the estate owns. To do this, you need to:  
  1. Find the estate’s property. You must find, get, and protect all the money and property the conservatee owns. Put the personal property into your name as conservator of the estate. For real estate, file a copy of your Letters of Conservatorship with the county recorder in every county where the conservatee owns real estate. Click to find the recorder in your county.

  2. Determine the value of the property. You must get a court-appointed referee to figure out how much the estate’s noncash property is worth. But you, not the referee, have to figure out how much the “cash items” are worth. Talk to a lawyer about how to do this.

  3. File an inventory and appraisal. You must file an inventory and appraisal with the court describing the conservatee’s property and showing its value when you became conservator. This is due no more than 90 days after you become conservator.

  4. Maintain insurance. Make sure there is enough insurance to cover the property of the estate. Also, make sure it’s the right kind of insurance. Keep the insurance in effect for each property for the whole time that you manage property as conservator.  

Record keeping and accounting
You must keep complete, exact records of every financial transaction that has to do with the estate. Use the checkbook for the conservatorship checking account to keep records of the money that comes in and the expenses you pay.

You will have to prepare an accounting report of:

  • All income, money, and property you get;
  • What you spent;
  • The date of every transaction;
  • The purpose of every transaction; and
  • What's left after you pay the estate’s expenses.

Court review of your records
A year after you become conservator of the estate, you must file a petition asking the court to approve your accounting. After that, you must do this again every 2 years. Save your receipts. The court may want to see them.  

If you do not file your accounting, the court will order you to file it. And you may be removed as conservator.  



Duty to disclose of spouses and domestic partners
If you are married to, or the domestic partner of, your conservatee, you must tell the court about any court action you file that would end or change your marriage, or any act that would end your domestic partnership.

You must tell the court about these events no more than 10 days after they happen. File a notice with the court.

Get help from your lawyer and other resources.
Your lawyer will give you advice about what your job is and the limits of your power and will help you prepare your inventory, accounting, and petition. Always cooperate with your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you may still want to talk to a lawyer to discuss any questions or doubts. Click for help finding a lawyer.

Duties of a Temporary Conservator

If the court chooses you as a temporary conservator, you have the same duties and powers that a general conservator has. But the conservatorship will end on the date written in your Letters of Temporary Conservatorship. A temporary conservator acts only until a general conservator is appointed, usually in about 30 to 60 days.


A temporary conservator should not make long-term decisions or changes that can wait for the permanent conservator. The main role of the temporary conservator is to ensure the temporary care, protection, and support of the conservatee. And the temporary conservator of the estate protects the conservatee’s finances and property from any loss or damage until a permanent conservator can take over the management of the estate.

A temporary conservator cannot, without the judge’s approval:

  • Move the conservatee from his or her home (unless it is an emergency).
  • Sell the conservatee’s home, or, if the conservatee is a renter, give up the lease.
  • Sell or give away an estate asset.

The Conservatee's Rights

Conservatees do not lose all rights. They can still have a say in important decisions. They have the right to:

  • Be treated with understanding and respect;
  • Have their wishes considered; and
  • Be well cared for by you.

In general, conservatees keep the rights to:

  1. Control their own salary;
  2. Make or change their will;
  3. Get married;
  4. Get mail;
  5. Have a lawyer;
  6. Ask a judge to change conservators;
  7. Ask a judge to end the conservatorship;
  8. Vote, unless a judge says they are not able to;
  9. Control personal spending money if a judge says they can have an allowance; and
  10. Make their own health-care decisions, unless a judge gives that right to a conservator.

Ask your lawyer what rights the conservatee does and does not have. Talk to your lawyer when you have questions.

Ending a conservatorship

A conservatorship is usually a permanent arrangement. But, in certain cases, a conservatorship may be ended or the conservator may be changed.

  • The conservator resigns
    If you become ill or cannot continue serving as a conservator for some other reason, you can file a petition asking the court to accept your resignation. Until (and unless) the court accepts the resignation, you are still fully responsible as conservator.

    If the court accepts your resignation, the judge may ask you to help find someone else to replace you as conservator. If there is no one suitable, the Public Guardian or a professional fiduciary may be appointed.
  • The conservatee becomes able to handle his or her own affairs
    You may have been appointed as a conservator while the conservatee recovers from a physical or mental condition that is temporarily disabling. For example, the conservatee may have been in a serious car accident and be unable to handle his or her personal affairs or finances. After rehabilitation, the conservatee may recover and be able to take care of things again.
In these cases, you, the conservatee, a relative or friend of the conservatee, or some other interested person can ask the court to end the conservatorship. The court may ask the court investigator to evaluate the case and the conservatee’s condition to see if the conservatorship should be ended. If the judge ends the conservatorship, you will be released from your duties.
  • The conservatee does not have any more assets
    Sometimes all of the conservatee’s assets will be spent for his or her care. Without assets there may no longer be a need for a conservatorship of the estate. The conservatorship of the person continues if necessary.
  • The conservatee dies
    The conservatorship ends when the conservatee dies. But if this happens, the court will not automatically release you from your duties and close the conservatorship until you take certain actions to finish the case.
  • The court removes the conservator
    The court may remove you for not doing the job or because you are not able to do it and then appoint a new conservator. The conservatee or any of his or her relatives or friends may ask the court to remove and replace you. If the conservatee makes the request and does not have his or her own lawyer, the judge will generally appoint one to file the petition for the conservatee.

If you are removed as conservator, you resign, or the conservatorship ends, you will be released from your duties, but only after you wrap things up and provide the court the needed information or documents to transfer the case to a new conservator or end the conservatorship. If you are a conservator of the estate, you will have to turn in a final accounting.

Summary of Timeline and Responsibilities for a Conservator of the Person

Step 1. You are appointed and qualify as conservator of the person.
Step 2.                     Obtain your Letters of Conservatorship and use certified copies of  these Letters to notify the conservatee’s doctors, health insurers,  and other interested parties that you are authorized to act on the  conservatee’s behalf.
Step 3. Figure out what help the conservatee needs and draw up a plan for  meeting those needs (your plan of conservatorship). The court  may require you to file this plan or a status report concerning the  conservatee’s present condition and circumstances. Check with  your lawyer to see what requirements your court has.
 Step 4. Take care of the conservatee’s urgent needs.
 Step 5.

Arrange for the conservatee’s:

•  Living situation,
•  Health care,
•  Meals,
•  Clothing,
•  Personal care,
•  Housekeeping,
•  Transportation, and
•  Recreation.
 Step 6. You will serve as conservator until a judge officially releases you  from your duties. This may happen if you resign and the court  accepts your resignation, the conservatee dies, a judge replaces  you with a new conservator, or a judge decides the conservatee  does not need a conservator any longer.

Summary of Timeline and Responsibilities for a Conservator of the Estate

 Step 1.      You qualify and are appointed conservator of the estate. You may  be required to obtain a bond to qualify.
 Step 2.   Obtain your Letters of Conservatorship and use certified copies of the Letters to notify the conservatee’s banks, creditors, stockbrokers, and others (such as the Social Security Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs) that you are authorized to act on the conservatee’s behalf.
 Step 3. Figure out what assets the conservatee owns and locate them. Take immediate steps to protect assets. Consult your lawyer about any urgent steps that may be necessary to prevent loss, such as freezing the assets so that no one but you has access to them.

Change the conservatee’s mailing address so that financial correspondence and billing comes to you.
 Step 4. Prepare an Inventory and Appraisal (Form GC-040) of the conservatee’s assets and file it with the court clerk within 90 days after your appointment.
 Step 5. Evaluate the conservatee’s financial needs and draw up a plan for meeting those needs (your conservatorship plan).
 Step 6. Set up a simple, accurate system for keeping records of conservatorship income and expenditures.
 Step 7.

Protect and manage the conservatee’s finances by:

•  Taking control of the conservatee’s assets;
•  Collecting income due to the conservatee;
•  Making a budget for the conservatee to live on;
•  Paying the conservatee’s bills with his or her money;
•  Investing the conservatee’s money responsibly;
•  Protecting the conservatee’s income and property; and
•  Keeping good records of income and expenditures.
 Step 8.

You must file an accounting with the court showing how you handled the conservatee’s income and property within 1 year after your appointment and at least every 2 years after that. (Conservators of small estates may be relieved of this task, but do not assume that unless the court excuses you.)

 Step 9. You will serve as conservator until you have filed a final accounting and a judge officially discharges you as conservator. This may happen if you resign, the conservatee dies, a judge withdraws your appointment and replaces you with a new conservator, or a judge decides the conservatee does not need a conservator any longer.

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