The Public Guardian acts as the legally appointed conservator for persons found by the Superior Court to be unable to properly care for themselves or their finances or who can't resist undue influence or fraud. Such persons may suffer from severe mental illness, dementia or are simply older, frail and vulnerable adults.
The main responsibility of the conservator is to provide each conservatee with the best and most independent living arrangement as possible, within their abilities and resources. The conservator assures that all personal and medical care and services needed to maintain a safe and comfortable living environment are provided for the conservatee.
Conservatorships are serious matters. They require a court hearing which may result in the loss of many civil rights. A proposed conservatee may lose the right to control their assets of manage their income, choose where they want to live, or the right to refuse or consent to medical treatment.
There are two types of conservatorships in California, both of which can have a conservator appointed for the person, for the estate or for both. These conservatorships are referred to as a Probate or a LPS conservatorship and are named for the laws that govern them.
Probate conservatorships are established pursuant to the laws found in the California Probate Code. A probate conservatorship may be appointed for a person who is unable to provide properly for his or her personal needs, physical health, food, clothing or shelter, or for persons substantially unable to manage their financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence as a result of diminished capacity as determined by a physician through capacity declaration. A private individual may petition the court for a probate conservatorship.
Laws governing LPS conservatorships are contained in the California Welfare & Institutions Code. A Conservatorship established under these statutes is for a person who is "gravely disabled" as a result of a mental disorder or chronic alcoholism and unable to provide food, clothing or shelter. Private individuals cannot petition to establish a LPS conservatorship. The Department of Mental Health is an agency that initiates the process by submitting a Recommendation for Conservatorship.