By Lori Cochrane, CLPF
Though it’s a work of fiction, the movie, I Care a Lot, has raised questions about conservatorships, how they work, and the role of Professional Conservators, also known as Professional Fiduciaries. The movie depicts a con artist who makes her living convincing various courts to grant her conservatorship over elders who she pretends cannot care for themselves. She then sells their assets and pockets the money. Could this really happen? Could it happen to you?
There are so many questions about the movie’s portrayal of conservatorship that I have decided to speak up and set the record straight. Don’t forget, movies are entertainment. It is far more entertaining to look for all the bad things in one industry and splice them together as though they all happened at one time by one person, compared to simply stating reality.
What is a conservatorship and what is its purpose?
A conservatorship is the legal appointment of a protector by a judge to manage the personal, medical, and/or financial affairs of an adult due to incapacity. Conservatorship is serious. It is not taken lightly. To be conserved is to lose independence. Our society deems that conservatorship is necessary in order to protect someone for two reasons: if you become incapacitated, and if you have not already assigned someone to serve with your authority as your agent with powers of attorney.
Basically, if you don’t declare who will speak for you if you are not able, then a judge has to assign somebody for you. Personally, I’d rather have control of who that person is. Read on to learn how to do that.
The laws concerning the establishment and continuing administration of a Conservatorship in the State of California can be found in California Probate Code Section 1400-3925. Google “California Probate Code” for access to a catalog of information.
What is a Licensed Professional Fiduciary (LPF)? We are individuals who have been licensed by the State of California’s Department of Consumer Affairs under the Professional Fiduciary Bureau. There are rigorous testing and educational requirements to be met to obtain a license, and constant monitoring and educational requirements to maintain a license. LPFs often serve as agents with powers of attorney, guardians, conservators, administrators, or executors in probate proceedings, and as trustees of trusts. Regardless of which role an LPF is serving in, and despite what you may see depicted in a movie, we are always overseen by either a court or by family members or individuals who have an interest in the person and assets being managed.
Is a conservatorship necessary if I have a power of attorney? A power of attorney often eliminates the need for a conservatorship altogether. However, to sign a power of attorney, a person must have the capacity to sign a legal document with a full understanding of intent.
How do I get a power of attorney? You may find that an attorney who specializes in Estate Planning will serve as the best consultant for you. An attorney may help you determine whether a Trust is necessary, and can draft documents for you to sign which give authority to people you wish to serve as your agent with power of attorney if you are not able.
Arming yourself with the facts about California Conservatorship will help you make the right decisions for your loved ones and bring you peace of mind. See more facts and frequently asked questions at https://californiaconservatorshipfacts.com/.
Cochrane Support Services provides specialized fiduciary services in the Placer County area and throughout the region. We are Professional Fiduciaries with specialized skill sets.
You can reach us at (916) 705-7309, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org