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2023 California Rules of Court

Rule 7.1059. Standards of conduct for the conservator of the estate

Except as otherwise required by statute, in the exercise of ordinary care and diligence in managing and controlling the estate of the conservatee, the conservator of the estate is to be guided by the following principles:

(a) Avoidance of actual and apparent conflicts of interest with the conservatee

The conservator must avoid actual conflicts of interest and, consistent with his or her fiduciary duty to the conservatee, the appearance of conflicts of interest. The conservator must avoid any personal, business, or professional interest or relationship that is or reasonably could be perceived as being self-serving or adverse to the best interest of the conservatee. In particular:

(1)  Except as appropriate for conservators who are not professional fiduciaries with full disclosure to the court, the conservator should not personally provide housing, medical, or legal services to the conservatee;

(2)  The conservator must be independent from all service providers, except when (a) no other conservator or service providers are reasonably available, (b) the exception is in the best interest of the conservatee, (c) the circumstances are fully disclosed to the court, and (d) prior court approval has been obtained;

(3)  The conservator must neither solicit nor accept incentives from service providers; and

(4)  The conservator must not engage his or her family members to provide services to the conservatee for a profit or fee when other alternatives are reasonably available. Where family members do provide such services, their relationship to the conservator must be fully disclosed to the court, the terms of engagement must be in the best interest of the conservatee compared to the terms available from independent service providers, the services must be competently performed, and the conservator must be able to exercise appropriate control and supervision.

A conservator's employees, including family members, are not service providers and are not providing services to the conservatee for a profit or fee within the meaning of this rule if their compensation is paid by the conservator and their services are either included in the conservator's petition for allowance of the conservator's compensation or are not paid from the conservatee's estate.

(b) Conservatorship estate management

The conservator of the estate must:

(1)  Provide competent management of the conservatee's property, with the care of a prudent person dealing with someone else's property;

(2)  Refrain from unreasonably risky investments;

(3)  Refrain from making loans or gifts of estate property, except as authorized by the court after full disclosure;

(4)  Manage the estate for the benefit of the conservatee;

(5)  Subject to the duty of full disclosure to the court and persons entitled under law to receive it, closely guard against unnecessary or inappropriate disclosure of the conservatee's financial information;

(6)  Keep the money and property of the estate separate from the conservator's or any other person's money or property, except as may be permitted under statutes authorizing public guardians or public conservators and certain regulated private fiduciaries to maintain common trust funds or similar common investments;

(7)  Hold title reflecting the conservatorship in individual securities, mutual funds, securities broker accounts, and accounts with financial institutions;

(8)  Keep accurate records of all transactions. Professional fiduciaries must maintain prudent accounting systems and procedures designed to protect against embezzlement and other cash-asset mismanagement;

(9)  Undertake as soon as possible after appointment and qualification to locate and safeguard the conservatee's estate planning documents, including wills, living trusts, powers of attorney for health care and finances, life insurance policies, and pension records;

(10)  Undertake as soon as possible after appointment and qualification to secure the real and personal property of the estate, insuring it at appropriate levels, and protecting it against damage, destruction, or loss;

(11)  Make reasonable efforts to preserve property identified in the conservatee's estate planning documents;

(12)  Communicate as necessary and appropriate with the conservator of the person of the conservatee, if any, and with the trustee of any trust of which the conservatee is a beneficiary;

(13)  Pursue claims against others on behalf of the estate when it would be in the best interest of the conservatee or the estate to do so. Consider requesting prior court authority to pursue or compromise large or complex claims, particularly those that might require litigation and the assistance of counsel and those that might result in an award of attorneys' fees for the other party against the estate if unsuccessful, and request such approval before entering into a contingent fee agreement with counsel;

(14)  Defend against actions or claims against the estate when it would be in the best interest of the conservatee or the estate to do so. Consider requesting court approval or instructions concerning the defense or compromise of litigation against the estate;

(15)  Collect all public and insurance benefits for which the conservatee is eligible;

(16)  Evaluate the conservatee's ability to manage cash or other assets and take appropriate action, including obtaining prior court approval when necessary or appropriate, to enable the conservatee to do so to the level of his or her ability;

(17)  When disposing of the conservatee's tangible personal property, inform the conservatee's family members in advance and give them an opportunity to acquire the property, with approval or confirmation of the court; and

(18)  In deciding whether it is in the best interest of the conservatee to dispose of property of the estate, consider the following factors, among others, as appropriate in the circumstances:

(A)  The likely benefit or improvement of the conservatee's life that disposing of the property would bring;

(B)  The likelihood that the conservatee would need or benefit from the property in the future;

(C)  Subject to the factors specified in Probate Code section 2113, the previously expressed or current desires of the conservatee concerning the property;

(D)  The provisions of the conservatee's estate plan concerning the property;

(E)  The tax consequences of the disposition transaction;

(F)  The impact of the disposition transaction on the conservatee's entitlement to public benefits;

(G)  The condition of the entire estate;

(H)  Alternatives to disposition of the property;

(I)  The likelihood that the property will deteriorate or be subject to waste if retained in the estate; and

(J)  The benefit versus the cost or liability of maintaining the property in the estate.

Rule 7.1059 adopted effective January 1, 2008.

Advisory Committee Comment

The Probate and Mental Health Advisory Committee consulted with several organizations in the development of rule 7.1059, including the National Guardianship Association, a nationwide voluntary association of professional and family fiduciaries, guardians, and allied professionals. In developing this rule, the Probate and Mental Heath Advisory Committee considered the National Guardianship Association's Standards of Practice. Some of these standards have been incorporated into the rules.

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