Limited conservatorships

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Limited conservatorships

Judges can only appoint a limited conservator if it's necessary to promote and protect someone's well-being

A judge may only appoint a limited conservator for a person with a developmental disability if the judge determines, by clear and convincing evidence, that it's necessary to promote and protect the person’s well-being.

The conservatorship must be designed to encourage the conservatee’s maximum self-reliance and independence. The judge may only grant powers and duties to a conservator and limit the proposed limited conservatee’s legal and civil rights to the extent that the grants and limits are necessary to promote and protect the person’s well-being. 

Who can be a limited conservator

Generally, the judge will appoint the person the proposed conservatee requests

If the person who needs help (the proposed conservatee) names someone in writing as their preferred conservator, the judge must appoint the named person unless the judge finds that appointing that person is not in the best interests of the proposed conservatee.

If the proposed conservatee cannot or does not name a preferred conservator, the judge will appoint the most qualified person based on the proposed conservatee’s best interests.

What happens if more than 1 person wants to be the conservator:

The judge can either decide to appoint either:

  • One of the people who ask to be appointed 
  • A third person

The 3rd person could be a relative or friend, a private professional, a county officer (usually called the public guardian), or the Director of Developmental Services if the Director agrees.

How  the judge decide between the options

Subject to the proposed conservatee’s preference, if two or more people are equally qualified and don’t want to serve together or the judge doesn’t think that would be a good idea, the judge must choose among them in the following order of preference: the proposed conservatee’s spouse or domestic partner, an adult child, a parent, a sibling, or any other person.

If the Director of the Department of Developmental Services thinks a person with a developmental disability cannot otherwise be protected, the Director will petition for appointment as limited conservator of a person. In that case, the court is not required to follow the order of preference above. 

The judge can appoint two or more limited conservators to serve “jointly.”

If the judge appoints two limited conservators, both conservators must agree to exercise a power. If the judge appoints more than two, a majority of the conservators must agree to exercise a power.

The judge can appoint one conservator of the person and one conservator of the estate. Even though the conservator of the person is responsible for the personal care of the conservatee and the conservator of the estate is responsible for the conservatee’s money and property, the two conservators need to work together to provide for the conservatee. The conservatee’s care will cost money and unless the conservatee is eligible for public benefits, the estate will need to pay for that care. 

Where to get help

You do not have to hire a lawyer to become a conservator. This Guide offers step-by-step instructions if you want to start a case to become a limited conservator. 

  • You can get free help with the process and forms in many courts at their Self-Help Center
  • If you need legal advice or more help, you can hire a lawyer

You may want to consult a lawyer if you need to set up a conservatorship of the estate. This Guide does not offer step-by-step instructions for conservatorships of the estate. 

If the person with a disability has an estate, it means they have assets or income beyond the receipt of public benefits. Examples of situations in which you will want to consider a limited conservatorship of the estate or of the person and the estate are when the person with a disability has an inheritance or a settlement from a lawsuit that is not in a special needs trust.  
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