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limited conservatorship

Limited conservatorships are for adults with developmental disabilities. If the adult you are trying to help does not have a developmental disability but needs help taking care of him/herself or his/her finances, see the About Conservatorships page on this website. If the adult you are trying to help has a serious brain disorder, see the LPS Conservatorship page on this website. If you are trying to set up a limited conservatorship and can't afford a lawyer, please see our Limited Conservatorship Workshop page.

Click on a topic to learn more:

  1. What is a limited conservatorship?
  2. Is a limited conservatorship different from a mental health (LPS) conservatorship?
  3. Who decides if the adult is developmentally disabled (DD)?
  4. What kinds of decisions does a limited conservator make?
  5. Can I have the conservatee sterilized if the court gives me medical powers?
  6. Will the court give me authority over the DD adult’s social and sexual life?
  7. Can I pay myself a salary from the limited conservatee’s funds?
  8. Does the court supervise the limited conservator?
  9. If I am the limited conservator, can I be sued if the conservatee hurts another person or damages someone’s property?
  10.   Does my lawyer also represent the conservatee?
  11.   Who can file for conservatorship?
  12.   Who can be appointed as limited conservator?
  13.   Do I need a lawyer to petition the court for a limited conservatorship?
  14.   What if I want to be the limited conservator but I can't afford a lawyer?
  15.   When should I apply for limited conservatorship?
  16.   How do I establish a limited conservatorship?
  17.   How long does the limited conservatorship last?
  18. What if the limited conservators do not act in the best interest of the conservatee?
  19.   If I am a limited conservator, do I also need a conservatorship of the estate?
  20.   Can I choose a limited conservator in my Will or living trust?
  21.   What if the limited conservator moves somewhere else in California?
  22.   What if the limited conservatee leaves the state?
  23.   What if I decide not to establish a limited conservatorship?
  24.   What if there is an emergency and there is no limited conservatorship?
  25.   Where can I get more information?
  1. What is a limited conservatorship?

    A limited conservatorship is a court proceeding where a judge gives a responsible person, called a limited conservator, certain rights to care for another adult who has a developmental disability (DD), called a limited conservatee.

  2. Is a limited conservatorship different from a mental health (LPS) conservatorship?

    Yes. An LPS conservatorship is only for people who are seriously mentally ill and need special care (usually placement in a locked facility and/or very powerful drugs to control behavior). But, if a person has a developmental disability, s/he may need a limited conservatorship, not an LPS conservatorship. Developmentally disabled people can usually do many things an LPS conservatee cannot do. So, the Court limits the limited conservators’ powers. See our LPS Conservatorships page for more information.

  3. Who decides if the adult is developmentally disabled (DD)?

    The Regional Center in your community (San Andreas Regional Center  covers Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, and Monterey County) will test the proposed conservatee to see if s/he is developmentally disabled.

    Generally, a person qualifies as developmentally disabled if s/he has an IQ less than 70 or is diagnosed with autism. Other conditions can qualify too.

    If the Regional Center accepted the person as a consumer shortly after birth, then s/he automatically qualifies. But, if the person has never been tested or accepted as a regional center consumer, s/he must be tested. If the Regional Center feels the person does not qualify, and you disagree, you can appeal to the Area Board in your region.

    In Santa Clara County, the area board supervising the San Andreas Regional Center  is Area Board VII.

  4. What kinds of decisions does a limited conservator make?

    At the hearing, the judge will say exactly what rights the conservator has. Because developmentally disabled people (abbreviated as DD, below) can usually do many things on their own, the judge will only give the limited conservator power to do things the conservatee cannot do without help.

    The conservator may:

    • Decide where the DD adult will live (but, NOT in a locked facility).
    • Look at the DD’s adult confidential records and papers.
    • Sign a contract for the DD adult.
    • Give or withhold consent for most medical treatment (NOT sterilization and certain other procedures).
    • Make decisions about the DD adult’s education and vocational training.
    • Place the DD adult at a state hospital for the developmentally disabled (a locked facility, like Agnews Developmental Center).
    • Give or withhold consent to the DD adult’s marriage.
    • Control the DD adult’s social and sexual contacts and relationships.
    • Manage the DD adult’s financial affairs.
  5. Can I have the conservatee sterilized if the court gives me medical powers?

    No. You must have a special hearing and a doctor must show evidence that sterilization is the least restrictive medical procedure available that will protect the DD person from becoming pregnant or causing a pregnancy. (Probate Code §1950 et seq .)

  6. Will the Court give me authority over the DD adult’s social and sexual life?

    Not usually. The only exception is when the DD adult is in danger because of the choices s/he makes in his/her social or sexual life.

    For example, if a DD adult is in an abusive relationship, the Court may give you the power to control his/her relationships. In this case, you could ask the court for a restraining order on behalf of the limited conservatee.

    It is also rare for the Court to give you the power to consent or withhold consent to the conservatee’s marriage.

  7. Can I pay myself a salary from the limited conservatee’s funds?

    No. Unless you have a court order and you are also the conservator of the estate. When you send your annual report to the Court, you can ask to be compensated for your time and any legal fees you may have paid to help you manage the estate.

  8. Does the court supervise the limited conservator?

    Yes. The Superior Court Probate Department will supervise the limited conservator. Someone from the Court Investigator's Office will review your case one year after the conservatorship is granted, then every two years after that. The investigator will call you to update the Court’s file.

    The investigator will also visit the conservatee.

  9. If I am the limited conservator, can I be sued if the conservatee hurts another person or damages someone’s property?

    No. Unless you are found personally negligent for the damage caused. But, you can be charged with a crime if you take financial advantage of the limited conservatee or, if you willfully neglect or abuse him/her.

  10.  Does my lawyer also represent the conservatee?

    No. The Court will appoint a public defender to represent the interests of the proposed limited conservatee and to review the petition for limited conservatorship.

    These services are free, unless the proposed conservatee can afford them.

  11.  Who can file for conservatorship?

    Any adult can file for conservatorship. The person who files for conservatorship is called the petitioner.

  12.  Who can be appointed as limited conservator?

    Conservators are usually parents, sisters, or brothers. But, any responsible adult can act as conservator. And, there can be more than one limited conservator.

    It’s a good idea to have at least one parent, and a brother, sister or other relative act as co-limited conservators. This way, if one conservator dies, the DD adult will still have another conservator to rely on.

  13.  Do I need a lawyer to petition the court for a limited conservatorship?

    No. But, it is a good idea to talk to an experienced lawyer or to ask a lawyer to review your forms. You can find a probate lawyer from the membership list of the Silicon Valley Bar Association’s website . You can also get a referral to a lawyer from the Santa Clara County Bar Association . Their phone number is 408-971-6822 . You can also get help at the Self-Help Center in downtown San Jose. See the Self-Help Center page with location, hours, phone number and hours.

  14.  What if I want to be the limited conservator but I can't afford a lawyer?

    The Self-Help Center conducts a monthly workshop where they may be able to help you fill out the court forms to ask the Judge to order that you are the developmentally disabled person's conservator. Click here to sign up for the workshop.

    If you need to be appointed the DD adult's conservator on an emergency basis (this is rare) please visit the Self-Help Center in person.

    The Regional Center with authority over the DD adult may, very rarely, agree to pay a lawyer to help you fill out your court forms.

    Usually there is no free legal help for people who want to be conservators.

  15.  When should I apply for limited conservatorship?

    If you are trying to establish a limited conservatorship for someone who will soon be 18, it’s a good idea to start the process more than three months before the DD person’s 18th birthday. Parents, brothers and sisters who may act as limited conservators should talk to the DD person so they know what is best for his/her medical care, living arrangements, education and training.

    Remember: You do not have to establish a conservatorship. If there is no conservatorship, the director of the DD person’s Regional Center has the power to make most legal decisions for him/her. For example, the Center can make medical decisions and choose where the DD adult lives.

  16.  How do I establish a limited conservatorship?

    You or your lawyer must fill out and file court forms. Usually, you must file in the county where the DD adult lives. The person who files is called the petitioner.

    Step 1

    Fill out your forms

    You can download the forms by clicking on the form number below. Or, get them from a stationery store, bookstore, or the Self-Help Center.

    The state forms are also on the Judicial Council website: www.courts.ca.gov/ . Tip: Choose "Probate-Guardianships and Conservatorships" from the drop-down menu.

    Fill out the state forms listed below:

    GC-310  Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator
    GC-020  Notice of Hearing
    GC-312  Confidential Supplemental Information
    GC-320  Citation for Conservatorship
    GC-348  Duties of Conservator
    GC-314  Confidential Conservator Screening
    GC-340  Order Appointing Conservator
    GC-350  Letters of Conservatorship

    There are 2 local forms you must fill out:

    PB-4002  Referral for Court Investigator & Questionnaire – Conservatorship
    PB-4003-1  Document Cover Sheet

    If you or the proposed conservatee cannot afford to pay the court fees, fill out these forms, too:

    FW-001  Request to Waive Court Fees (There are helpful video instructions for this form - see A/V instructions for FW-001 video icon)
    FW-003  Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court)

    If there is an urgent need to establish a conservatorship, fill out these temporary conservatorship forms:

    GC-110  Petition for Appointment of Temporary Conservator
    GC-140 Order Appointing Temporary Conservator
    GC-150  Letters of Temporary Conservatorship

    There are special rules for temporary conservators. See Probate Code Section 2253 . Read Probate Rule 11 so you can fill out your forms correctly. Otherwise, you will have to correct them and file again.

    Step 2

    Get a hearing date and a case number

    The clerk can give you a date for the conservatorship hearing about 10-12 weeks after you file your forms. (It takes the Court Investigation Unit and the Regional Center at least 10 weeks to investigate your case. See above for more on the Court Investigators.)

    To ask for a hearing date, call the clerk at Downtown Superior Court (408) 882-2100 extension 2649 . The clerk will give you a case number at the same time.

    If your situation is urgent, fill out the forms to apply for a temporary conservatorship. (See Step 1).

    Step 3

    File your forms

    Make two copies of all your forms, including the Proof of Service, and take them to the Probate Clerk’s Office at: Probate Clerk’s Office, Room 104, Downtown Superior Court (DTS). Visit the DTS page for DTS address, phone and business hours. Closed court holidays. The clerk will ask you to pay a filing fee. (See the local fee schedule  and check probate filing fees.)

    The clerk will stamp your originals and both sets of copies, and will send one set of the copies to the Court Investigation Unit. They will investigate your case and make a recommendation to the Court before your hearing. The other set of copies is for your records.

    Step 4

    Serve your forms

    You must “give notice by mail” to certain people including:

    • grandparents,
    • parents,
    • brothers and sisters,
    • children,
    • grandchildren,
    • the Regional Center (see below), and
    • spouse.

    This means someone over 18 – not you – must serve (give) copies of the court forms to those people at least 15 days before the hearing. That way, they will know you are asking to be the conservator. You must do this even if you think those people don’t care or may disagree with you.

    Someone over 18—not you—must also “give personal notice” to the proposed conservatee. You can have a friend or family member do this, or you can hire a professional process server. The server must serve copies of these forms:

    • Notice of Hearing
    • Petition for Appointment of Conservator

    There are rules for giving notice. You must follow them carefully or you may have to go back to Court. The person who serves the forms by mail must fill out and sign page two of GC-020 , then give it back to you. This is your Proof of Service. Make copies of both pages of this form and file it with the clerk with your other papers.

    If you have questions about how to serve your forms, talk to a probate examiner, the probate staff attorney at the court, or contact the court’s Self-Help Center.

    You must also give notice 30 days before the hearing to the Regional Center:

    Staff Psychologist
    San Andreas Regional Center
    P.O. Box 50002
    San Jose, CA 95150

    You must also give notice 15 days before the hearing to the Deputy Public Defender:

    Deputy Public Defender (Probate)
    120 W. Mission Street
    San Jose, CA 95110

    Step 5

    File Order Appointing Conservator

    If you haven’t done so already, file form GC-340 , your proposed Order Appointing Conservator. Bring or mail it to the Probate Clerk’s Office (at Downtown Superior Court) at least 4 days before your hearing. If you haven’t done so already, fill out form GC-350 , Letters of Conservatorship. You can take this form to the hearing.

    Step 6

    Go to the hearing

    The time and date of your hearing are listed on GC-020 , #4. You must get to Downtown Superior Court by 12:40 because you have to see a video before your hearing. You will be given a pink slip. Be sure to take the pink slip with you to prove you saw the video. You will need this pink slip when you go to Court to get Letters of Conservatorship.

    Look at the door outside the courtroom to know when your case will be called. Sit in the courtroom and wait for the clerk to call your case. Watch the other cases so you will know what to do. When the clerk calls your case, step forward with the DD adult. If the DD adult does not come, you must have an acceptable medical excuse from a doctor.

    The judge may ask you some questions. It will only take a few minutes. The DD adult may not understand what the hearing is about. A public defender or court-appointed attorney will meet with the DD adult before to the hearing to explain what will happen.

    If the judge approves the limited conservatorship, the clerk will give you a signed Order.

    Step 7

    After the hearing

    Take the signed Order to the Probate Clerk’s Office downstairs. Also give the clerk:

    • the pink slip [showing you saw the video],
    • the yellow slip [showing you bought the conservatorship manual], and
    • if you need a bond, file the bond with the clerk.

    The clerk will give you a filed copy of your Letters of Conservatorship.

    Step 8

    Your responsibilities as conservator

    If you are conservator of the person, you must take care of the conservatee’s

    • food,
    • clothing,
    • shelter, and
    • well-being.

    If you are conservator of the estate, you must:

    • manage and protect the conservatee’s assets,
    • make a list of all assets,
    • collect the conservatee’s income, and
    • pay the conservatee’s bills.

    You have many other responsibilities, too. To learn more, talk to a lawyer. Or, read the Handbook for Conservators that you bought from the clerk. You can also download the Santa Clara County Supplement to the Handbook  from this website . It has practical information and lists resources in our county.


  17.  How long does the limited conservatorship last?

    The limited conservatorship lasts until the court says otherwise or until the DD person dies.

  18.  What if the limited conservators do not act in the best interest of the conservatee?

    The court investigator will review the case one year after the conservatorship is established, then every 2 years after that. If the court investigator’s report or other information suggests that one or more conservators are not acting in the best interest of the conservatee, the judge will issue an order to show cause.

    If this happens, there will be a court hearing to decide if the conservator(s) should be removed and replaced. This is not a criminal hearing. But, if a conservator is suspected of taking physical or financial advantage of a conservatee, the State can file criminal charges.

  19.  If I am a limited conservator, do I also need a conservatorship of the estate?

    You do not need a conservatorship of the estate if:

    • the DD adult you care for gets public assistance, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security (SSA) but has no other assets, or
    • if the DD adult earns a wage.
    But, you need a conservatorship of the estate if the DD adult has other assets, like an inheritance or a settlement from a lawsuit that is not in a special needs trust.

    The Court supervises the conservator of the estate. One year after the conservatorship is established, then every 2 years after that, the conservator must file a report to show the Court how the money in the conservatorship is being managed and spent.

  20. Can I choose a limited conservator in my Will or living trust?

    No. Only the court can appoint a limited conservator.

  21.  What if the limited conservator moves somewhere else in California?

    The limited conservators must give the Court and the Court Investigator's Office the new address.

  22.  What if the limited conservatee leaves the state?

    The limited conservatee can leave the state for visits or training without Court permission. But, the conservatee cannot move to a different state without getting the Court’s permission first.

    If the Court gives the conservatee permission to move, you must petition for a new conservatorship in the state the conservatee moves to. You must do this within four months after leaving California.

    Check the laws of the state the conservatee moves to so you will know what their requirements are, like whether or not you must also live in that state to be conservator.

  23.  What if I decide not to establish a limited conservatorship?

    In most cases, DD adults are not able to give informed consent for medical treatment or to sign contracts. If you do not establish a limited conservatorship, the director of the Regional Center has the authority to make most of the DD adult’s decisions.

    The Center is a non-profit organization supervised by the Department of Developmental Services. The director can make decisions about where the DD adult lives and his/her medical care. S/he can also contract for services on behalf of the DD adult.

  24.  What if there is an emergency and there is no limited conservatorship?

    If there is no conservatorship, the director of the Regional Center will make emergency decisions for the DD adult. The Court can also appoint one or more temporary conservators if there is an emergency need.

    The Court may or may not have a hearing to appoint a temporary limited conservator. Often, a judge will sign an ex parte order appointing a temporary conservator after reviewing the sworn declarations about the case.

  25.  Where can I get more information?

    Here are resources in Santa Clara County:

© 2014 Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara