What is Conservatorship?

The legal topic of Conservatorship has been seen on the news lately as court proceedings regarding Britney Spears proceed. It leaves viewers with a few questions, such as “what is conservatorship?” or “how long does one last?” We’re here to help you learn more about conservatorships! A conservatorship is where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for themselves or their own finances. Conservatorship is different from guardianship. While guardianship generally refers to minors, conservatorship refers to adults. 

There are three types of conservatorship agreements. The most common is a general probate conservatorship. A judge can appoint a conservator to care for the conservatee as well as manage their estate and financial matters if they deem the conservatee unable to do it.  A Limited Conservatorship would apply to adults with developmental disabilities and are differentiated from the previously mentioned general Conservatorship because they require a lesser level of care. The last type of Conservatorship is a Lanterman- Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship. LPS conservatorships are intended to care for adults with serious mental health illnesses that may require special circumstances.

The current news also leaves viewers with the question of “how does someone (notably the conservatee) end a conservatorship agreement?” A conservatorship is typically a permanent arrangement but can be ended under certain circumstances such as:

-The conservatee becomes able to handle their own affairs.

-The conservatee doesn’t have any more assets.

-The conservatee dies.

-The court removes the conservator.

-The conservator dies.

-The conservator resigns.

As mentioned previously, a conservatorship is typically a permanent arrangement and must be entered into with significant consideration. There are alternatives to conservatorship that still accomplish the goal of caring for the person. For Medical and Personal Care Decisions, alternatives include an advance health care directive or a Court authorization for medical treatment. Financial decisions can be made though alternatives such as power of attorney. Before eliminating these alternatives, the potential conservator must establish that a conservatorship is the only way to meet the person’s needs. Otherwise, the court may not grant the petition of conservatorship. However, once a conservatorship agreement has been reached, it is difficult to be lifted. 

To learn more about Conservatorship, please see the listing of our print materials and the online links  below. You can also explore our legal databases for secondary sources on conservatorships.

California Conservatorship Practice KFC112 .C355 CEB

Handbook for conservators KFC112 .H36 2002

ACLU How Conservatorship Threatens Britney Spears’ Civil Rights 

California Courts Website

CA Probate Code 1860

Rule 7.1052. Termination of conservatorship 

Superior Court of California County of Riverside

Superior Court of California County of Santa Clara

Written by: Andy Valencia, Reference Librarian 

Andrea Valencia

By Andrea Valencia

July 02, 2021

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