When an individual has a condition that limits their ability to care for themselves, a conservatorship can be obtained through the court. There are several types of conservatorships most often sought in Contra Costa County.
A limited conservatorship is necessary in the case of special needs children when they turn 18. Obtaining a limited conservatorship through the Contra Costa County Court in Martinez allows parents of special needs children to manage their care and well being going forward.
A “full” conservatorship is most often necessary for an older adult who has dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or another disease that has left them with limited mental capacity. These types of conservatorships have two parts: the “conservatorship of the person,” and “conservatorship of finances.”
I regularly work with clients to obtain conservatorships for family members in Walnut Creek, Danville, Concord, and the surrounding areas. A conservatorship of the person allows the conservator to manage the day to day care for the conservatee, including things such as medical needs, shelter, food, and daily activities. A financial conservatorship allows the conservator to manage the finances of the conservatee. In California, if one has a valid power of attorney with an agent who is willing to assist, a conservatorship is not necessary.
Although a conservatorship imparts vast powers upon the conservator, granting both custody and control over most aspects of their life, it is important to note that the conservatee still retains important rights. When you hire an attorney to help attain a conservatorship in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, the court will also appoint an attorney to represent the conservatee. The attorney for the conservatee will help ensure that a conservatorship is indeed necessary, and that the conservatee retains their rights to receive visitors, calls, and personal mail (unless otherwise limited by court order.) The court will also help ensure that the conservatee has a residence that meets the needs for their level of capacity. For example, if the conserved person has a milder form of dementia, they most likely would not need to be kept in a locked area. The court wants to ensure their environment is the least restrictive necessary.
An important issue regarding the rights of the conservatee which comes up frequently in Conservatorship cases in the SF East Bay is the conserved person being denied contact with specific persons by the conservator. A widely publicized example of this was the Casey Kasem conservatorship. His daughter, Kerri Kasem was denied visitation by his conservator, and has since worked tirelessly to get new legislation passed. Currently in California, a conservator cannot deny contact with a specific person unless a court order has authorized such a restriction.
When it is truly necessary for a conservator to limit specific relationships of the conservatee, they can obtain a restraining order or seek to modify the original conservatorship order. Many conservatorships are in fact obtained because an elderly person has become vulnerable to predators and is being subjected to elder abuse. In these cases, it is particularly important to work with an experienced Elder Law attorney to ensure that the conservatorship is set up properly. To ensure that relatives and other close persons to the conservatee are aware of both the conservatorship and the conservatee’s rights, California law states that a notice of the conservatee’s rights must be sent to them, and when applicable, posted at the skilled nursing facility. For seniors in the later stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, placement in a skilled nursing facility is often necessary. Conservators need to be aware that in order to restrict contact by certain persons with the conservatee within the nursing home, a court order must also be obtained which specifically refers to visitors, mail, and phone calls at the skilled nursing home.
What happens if the Conservatee’s Rights are Violated?
If the basic rights retained by the conservatee are violated, the family members or conservatee themselves can petition the court to have the conservator replaced.
In Contra Costa County, a court investigator is also present in Conservatorship cases, and the conservatee can tell them that a problem exists as well.
Conservatorships can be complicated, which is why it’s important to retain a knowledgeable and trustworthy Elder Law attorney to assist. It is also important to find an attorney who has experience with conservatorships in the county the conservatee resides in. I have extensive experience with Conservatorships in SF East Bay, specifically Contra Costa County and Alameda County.
If you have questions regarding a conservatorship or potential conservatorship, I offer a free consultation from my Elder Law Office in downtown Walnut Creek. Call 925-322-1763.