When an adult cannot care for themselves and/or manage their own finances, a court can appoint another person to take protective responsibility. This creates a “court ordered conservatorship” (also called a “probate conservatorship”) between the protected person (the conservatee) and the responsible person (the conservator). A conservatorship is a formal, legal authorization for the conservator – usually a family member, close friend, or hired professional – to make decisions for the benefit of the protected person. It restricts the conservatee’s powers over their personal care and/or financial decisions. It is particularly useful when the protected person is mentally or physically unable to understand and accept help, or is vulnerable to persons who might take financial advantage of them.
Disability Rights California has a few publications on Conservatorship, including Duties of a Conservator.
There are different types of conservatorship. Families with individuals with developmental disabilities who need conservatorship generally apply for limited conservatorship .
It can be a very intense process and is not the right choice for everyone. Other alternatives to conservatorship include:
- Supported Decision-Making: Supported Decision-Making (SDM) is when you use trusted friends, family and professionals to help you understand situations and choices in your life. It is a way to increase your independence. It encourages you and gives you the power to make decisions about your life as much as possible.
- Durable Power of Attorney: This is a legal document where you give someone you trust the legal right to make decisions for you. It is a way for you to get help with the supports and services you need to live independently. You can give someone the right to make one kind of decision, like medical or financial, or give them the right to make both kinds of decisions. In California a person is assumed competent until he is found legally incompetent, therefore a person with autism or another developmental disability would have the right to sign this form after age 18 years. You can find many of these forms online, but it will have to be notarized.
Please check with an attorney to find what works best for your family.