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Guardianships and Conservatorships are a way to help those we love when life takes an unexpected turn. This might be due to a loved one needing assistance caring for themselves physically or financially.

In California, however, guardianship and conservatorship have distinct meanings and serve different purposes. 

Let’s explore the difference between guardianship and conservatorship in California to provide you with a clear understanding. If you need expert guidance on guardianship or conservatorship matters, don’t hesitate to reach out to Hermance Law for professional assistance.

Understanding Guardianship Laws in California

Guardianship entails granting legal authority to a person to manage someone under 18, a minor. Understandably, if one or both parents are alive and capable of caring for the child, guardianship is not required. 

However, many guardianship cases arise following a tragedy or other unfortunate circumstances. In these instances, seeking guardianship becomes essential to ensure the well-being and proper care of the child in need.

When is Guardianship Appointed?

Guardianship can arise due to various personal circumstances on the part of the parent or parents. Some common reasons for seeking guardianship include:

  • An individual who is incapacitated and unable to care for their child.
  • The unfortunate passing of a parent.
  • A parent grappling with substance addiction, whether it be drugs or alcohol.
  • Instances of abuse.

In these situations, the court may establish either temporary or permanent guardianship, depending on the specific circumstances. Sometimes, a relative may take on the role of guardian, while in other cases, the court may appoint professional guardians. Each case is unique, and the court considers the best interests of the child when making these decisions.

Types of Guardianships

There are two main types of guardianships in California:

  • Guardian of the Person: Responsible for the personal care and well-being of the individual, including providing shelter, medical care, education, and emotional support.
  • Guardian of the Estate: Manages the financial affairs and assets of the individual, making decisions related to money, property, and investments.

Responsibilities of Guardians

Guardians have a significant responsibility to act in the best interests of the person under their care. They must provide a safe and nurturing environment, make medical and educational decisions, and manage financial matters diligently.

Guardianship vs. Adoption

It’s important to note that guardianship and adoption are distinct legal arrangements. Adoption establishes a permanent parent-child relationship. Guardianships are typically temporary and can be terminated when the circumstances change or when the child turns 18.

Understanding Conservatorship in California

In the realm of probate court proceedings, a conservatorship grants legal authority to an individual over the personal or financial matters of an adult, referred to as the “conservatee.” The key distinction between conservatorship and guardianship lies in their scope: guardianship pertains to minors, while conservatorship is applicable to adults. Despite this difference, the two share striking similarities.

Similar to guardianship, a conservatorship can be established for either the person or the estate of the individual. The conservator of the person wields authority over the conservatee’s personal affairs, whereas the conservator of the estate has control over the conservatee’s financial matters.

A diverse range of conservatorships exists, each tailored to specific factors such as the duration of authority (permanent conservatorship versus the powers of a temporary conservator), the scope of powers (limited conservatorship for specific situations, for instance), and conservatorships designed for special circumstances, like an LPS conservatorship for people with severe mental illness.

While temporary guardianships also exist, conservatorship proceedings offer greater versatility. This is primarily due to the significant variation in the level of care required for adults compared to the more consistent care needs of children.

When is Conservatorship Appointed?

Conservatorship is typically appointed when an adult is deemed incapacitated or incompetent and unable to manage their own finances or make sound decisions.

Responsibilities of Conservators

Conservators have a legal duty to act in the best interests of the conservatee and manage their affairs responsibly. They must make financial decisions, protect the conservatee’s assets, and report to the court regularly. As a standard practice, accounting is typically required within the initial year of conservatorship and subsequently every two years.

Need Help with Guardianship or Conservatorship in California?

We know the impact these legal tools have on people and families. If you’re looking for legal guidance on a situation involving either guardianship or conservatorship give our team a call. 

We’ve helped countless California families with issues related to these sensitive moments.

Don’t delay in seeking professional assistance. Contact Hermance Law today for a free consultation. Let us help you navigate the complexities of guardianship and conservatorship, ensuring the well-being and protection of your loved ones with care and efficiency.

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