people are aware of general conservatorships.
These take away the conservatee’s (conserved person’s) power to make
decisions affecting their assets, finances and/or healthcare and living arrangements.
A general conservatorship protects those
unable to make such decisions, or to protect someone who is generally unable to
resist fraud or undue influence. For
example, a person suffering from severe dementia who cannot take care of
everyday living needs might need to be conserved.
conservatorship, however, applies only to developmentally disabled persons. People who in many ways may be able to take
care of themselves, but who in other ways need assistance, “to promote and protect [their] well-being … .” Normally the parents (or siblings) petition
to become the limited conservator.
Parents typically want to continue to make decisions affecting their
child’s healthcare, living arrangements and education even after their child
becomes an adult.
no one steps forward, the regional center may itself be appointed as the
limited conservator. In an emergency, if
a conservatorship were not in place, the director of the local regional center
has the authority to make health care and living arrangement decisions for
their developmentally disabled client.
does “developmentally disabled” mean? “Developmental
disability means a disability that originates before an individual attains 18
years of age, continues, or can be expected to continue, indefinitely, and
constitutes a substantial handicap for the individual.”
specifically includes intellectual
disability, autism, cerebral paulsy, and epilepsy which occurred before age
18. Also included are handicaps which either
are similar to intellectual disability or are similarly treated. However, mental disorders (e.g., depression,
anxiety etc.) and handicaps which are solely physical in nature (e.g., brain
trauma) are excluded.
disabled persons, who are diagnosed prior to age 18, qualify for assistance at
their community’s regional center.
Regional centers are non-profit community organizations which contract
with public and private service providers.
Collectively these services and supports are supposed to be,
“sufficiently complete to meet the needs and choices of each person with
developmental disabilities, regardless of age or degree of disability, and at each stage of life and to support
their integration into the mainstream life of the community”.
a limited conservatorship serves to assist, “the development of maximum self-reliance and independence of the [developmentally
disabled] individual”. Thus, unlike
a general conservatorship where the conservatee loses substantially all rights,
the limited conservatee retains, “all
legal and civil rights except those which by court order have been designated
as legal disabilities and have been specifically granted to the limited
conservator”. Thus, only those
rights affected by the developmentally disabled person’s own particular
inabilities are transferred to the conservator.
those areas where a limited conservatorship is appropriate becomes the focus of
the court proceedings. Generally speaking, the local regional center is
involved with every petition. The regional center assesses the specific areas,
nature, and degree of the person’s disability and reports its assessment to
the court. The court is not bound by the
assessment, but usually gives it great deference.
powers which may, as necessary, be transferred to the limited conservator fall
into seven categories: (1) determining
where the conservatee resides; (2) accessing confidential records; (3)
consenting or refusing permission to marry; (4) entering into contracts on
behalf of the conservatee; (5) making medical decisions; (6) controlling the
persons social and sexual relationships; and (7) making decisions regarding
limited conservatorship can only take effect once the person turns age 18. Accordingly, it is desirable to petition the
court around 3 months prior to the person’s 18th birthday. That way the
conservatorship can take effect once the person turns 18.
“Serving Lake and Mendocino Counties for nineteen years, the Law Office of Dennis Fordham focuses on legacy and estate planning, trust and probate administration, and special needs planning. We are here for you. 870 South Main Street Lakeport, California 95453-4801. Phone: 707-263-3235.”