Probate conservatorships are for people gravely disabled due to a degenerative mental and/or physical disease. The Public Guardian’s involvement is initiated by a referral to our office. Any interested party can submit a referral for an investigation for Probate conservatorship. Referrals are obtained by calling the Public Guardian’s office and requesting one. Once we receive the referral, an investigation is initiated to determine if a conservatorship is necessary and appropriate; that is, if the person is substantially unable to provide for food, clothing, shelter or health care and that there a no less restrictive assistance options available or appropriate.
The Probate Investigator interviews the person being considered for conservatorship (the conservatee) and talks to concerned parties, including doctors, family, neighbors, friends, social workers, etc. The investigator reviews all pertinent reports and files. And, since a conservatorship is considered a last resort, alternatives are sought and the reasons they are not available or appropriate is documented. If the criteria for conservatorship is met, a written report is submitted to County Counsel, where the legal paperwork is prepared. County Counsel files the petition and is assigned a court date. In this interim period, the Court has its own investigator who interviews the client, reads the report and submits a recommendation to the judge, either agreeing or disagreeing with the need for conservatorship. A Public Defender is assigned to represent the proposed conservatee and inquire if they want to contest the conservatorship.
If they do, the case may go to either a court or jury trial. This can prolong the process by many weeks or months. If the person agrees to the conservatorship, then a Superior Court judge will make the decision at a court hearing, based on all of the evidence presented.
If the conservatorship is granted, the Public Guardian Deputies manage the person’s care and finances. Since most of the Probate conservatees have progressive diseases, the conservatorship usually lasts for the length of the person’s life.