After agonizing over the decision that your loved one can no longer make decisions for him or herself, you decide to petition a California court to become his or her conservator. You may be convinced that your loved one needs assistance, but you know the court won’t just take your word for it.

Understanding the process ahead may help alleviate some of the anxiety and stress you may feel as you endeavor to help your loved one.

Determining incapacity

Establishing a conservatorship takes away the right of the conservatee to make certain decisions for him or herself. Therefore, the court wants to make sure that this move is necessary and in his or her best interest. In order to do so, the following occurs:

  • The court appoints an attorney to represent your loved one. This helps ensure that his or her rights remain protected.
  • The court appoints people such as social workers, nurses and doctors to examine your loved one.
  • Each person meets with and examines your loved one and prepares a report for the court’s review.
  • At some point before, during or after this process, the appointed attorney meets with your loved one.
  • The court then holds a hearing where everyone may have a chance to present arguments from either side of the issue. The judge may ask questions as well.
  • The court then makes a decision regarding whether the individual is incapacitated and needs a conservator.

Depending on the court’s ruling, you could receive authority to handle all of your loved one’s affairs or only some of them. For instance, the court may determine that he or she only needs assistance in paying bills and handling other financial matters. All other decisions would remain with the conservatee. If the court grants you all of your loved one’s rights, then you take full responsibility for his or her legal rights.

You may need some help

You may be asking the court for the right to help your loved one, but that doesn’t mean you have to go through the process alone. Even though your primary concern is for your loved one, you need to consider how this process and being a conservator affects you. Understanding the gravity of what you wish to undertake is essential. You will still be responsible to the court as well as to your loved one. Knowing your rights and responsibilities ahead of time could save you trouble in the future.