Video Transcript Can you Object to a Conservatorship?
Hello, this is Jim Filippi at the Filippi Law Firm, P.C., an estate lawyer serving Rocklin and the surrounding area in Placer County and the greater Sacramento area.
Today, I want to talk about whether you can object to a conservatorship in California. A conservator is an individual appointed when another individual, the conservatee, can’t look after his or her own financial affairs.
California conservatorship law allows for some sort of a hearing if there’s any objection to a conservatorship. Any estate planning attorney in California will tell a client that there are two basic reasons to object to a conservatorship.
- The first question which might draw an objection is whether the individual who needs a conservatorship is really incapable of managing his or her own affairs.
- The second question which might draw an objection is whether the individual seeking to be the conservator is fit or whether some other individual or institution might be better for the conservatee.
Each of these two objections is possible, but they follow somewhat different paths and tend to have somewhat different outcomes.
So, looking at the first question of whether an individual is really incapable of managing his or her own affairs is going to be a difficult question for the conservatee to avoid. Usually, by the time a conservatorship petition is filed with a court, the individual needing help will have declined to such a point that the matter will be pretty obvious to all of that person’s friends and family.
Usually, the person filing the conservatorship petition will be able to bring in the expert testimony of a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, or a psychologist who will say that the individual needing help can’t manage their own financial affairs or their own personal life, or both.
I won’t deny that sometimes, there are cases of hanky-panky going on, in which the wicked conservator seeks to take advantage of the older relative to get a hold of their assets. It isn’t unheard of, but as a practical matter, it’s a rare thing, better left for movies or novels. For that to happen, two professionals, both a lawyer and a doctor, are going to have to put their licenses to practice on the line for a stranger.
It’s also possible that once you have one medical opinion, you might consult another doctor for a second opinion or a third opinion. Like any group of professionals, doctors might disagree in borderline cases. But usually, by the time a conservator petition is filed, the case isn’t borderline anymore.
A conservatee seeking to avoid a conservatorship petition is entitled to a full trial before the court with both a judge and a jury in California. The jury will ultimately rule as to the fitness of the individual to look after his or her own assets.
The second kind of conservatorship objection focuses on whether the individual, conservator-to-be, is the best person available to care for the best interests of the conservatee. Both the proposed conservatee and other individuals might file objections, stating that someone else is better suited.
There are three categories of candidates you might look to if you are considering creating a conservatorship or petitioning for one.
- You can have an individual be the conservator, usually either a friend or a family member.
- You can have a fiduciary institution like a bank be the conservator if the assets are substantial. Every financial institution has a trust department that can conduct a conservatorship, but these conservators cost money.
- For individuals who are destitute, there are public guardians that can be appointed. An estate planning attorney in California can help you select the ideal conservator if you’re considering filing a petition for a loved one.
An objection to the conservator, rather than the conservatorship itself, is tried without a jury before just a judge. The judge hears the evidence and makes a decision.
The best solution to avoiding a fight over a conservatorship is to prepare your estate planning documents well in advance before they’re needed. At the Filippi Law Firm, P.C., I work as an estate lawyer serving Rocklin and the entire Placer County area. You can call me for all of your conservatorship planning needs.