Limited Conservatorships for the Developmentally Disabled may be useful for families who have a child who is: near or at legal adulthood; in need of help with decision making; in need of an advocate; or incapable of giving consent.

Following are some commonly asked questions and answers about Limited Conservatorships:

Why do I need to establish a Limited Conservatorship over my child?

When your child turns 18, it is legally assumed that your child is an adult and can make his/her own decisions about medical, educational, and financial matters. There is no legal requirement that anyone consider or follow the opinion or direction of the parent.

Examples of reasons why parents have established Limited Conservatorships:

  • Hospital requires a Limited Conservatorship before they will operate on your adult child.
  • Educational system/school will not consult with the parents. Continued advocacy is needed by the parents.
  • Adult child is emotionally and socially much younger than adult age and needs protection.
  • Adult child has no impulse control and signs contracts for cells phones and other obligations without sufficient understanding.
  • Parents want to decide where their adult child can live.

Can more than one person be the Limited Conservator?

Yes, both parents can be appointed. Where the parents are divorced, it has happened that both parents and a step-parent have been appointed.

Does my child have to have an attorney?

The public defender is automatically appointed in all cases to represent your child. This is required by law. It does not matter if your child cannot communicate or is in favor of the Limited Conservatorship.

Is it easy to establish a Limited Conservatorship?

A Limited Conservatorship applies specifically to a developmentally disabled person. Unlike a general Conservatorship, you have to ask the Court for specific powers. The intent of making this type of proceeding different than a regular Conservatorship is to recognize and encourage independence on behalf of your adult child. If your child is very high functioning, the Regional Center and the Public Defender may oppose the Limited Conservatorship.

Do I need a Limited Conservatorship of the Person and Estate?

No, the majority are Limited Conservatorships of the Person. You can request some or all of the following powers over your adult child as a Limited Conservator of the Person:

  • To fix the residence or specific dwelling
  • To have access to the confidential records and papers
  • To consent or withhold consent to marriage
  • To control the right to contract
  • To have the power to give or withhold medical consent
  • To control the social and sexual contacts and relationships
  • To make the decisions concerning education

Do I have to do accountings?

No, this is a common mistake by attorneys who are not familiar with Limited Conservatorships. Accountings are burdensome, time consuming and expensive. In most circumstances they are completely unnecessary. If your child receives SSI (Supplemental Security Income), you can be the representative payee and you do not need to have a Conservatorship of the Estate, provided your child does not have any other assets. Assuming there are reasons you need a Conservatorship of the Estate, if your child has less than $15,000, receives income of less than $2,000 (SSI is not included), and all of the income is used for the benefit of your child, you can get the Court to waive accountings.

Can I do a Limited Conservatorship by myself or do I need an attorney?

You could do it by yourself, but there are pitfalls. It is complicated, there are a lot of documents that have to be completed properly and procedures for notice that have to be precisely followed. On the one hand, where parents represent themselves I have seen the Court be sympathetic and helpful, on the other hand it may mean that it will take you longer to establish the Conservatorship because if you make any procedural errors that can’t be corrected by the time of the hearing, the Judge will continue the matter to a later date and you’ll have to keep coming back to Court until it is done right.
It’s more efficient if you are represented by an attorney who is very familiar with Limited Conservatorships. Especially if there is a need to get the Conservatorship established quickly. Also, if you anticipate a difference of opinion with the Regional Center or the Public Defender as to the powers you are requesting, it is helpful to have an attorney represent your position to the Court.

How much does it cost to establish a Limited Conservatorship?

As of spring 2010 the Court’s filing fee is $355.00, the Court Investigator’s fee is $800, certification of Letters costs $25 each, and a Conservator’s Handbook is $20. If there is no estate the Court Investigator’s fee can be waived. The filing fee can also be waived if the person applying has insufficient income or is receiving financial assistance such as SSI.
Attorneys fees vary. If there is no one objecting, the attorneys fees should range from $1,500 to $2,500.

Can I ask for a Limited Conservatorship from the Court before my child turns 18?

Yes, you can file a petition with the Court during the year before s/he turns 18. You can get an order of the Court which becomes effective when your child turns 18.

My adult child requires surgery and the hospital is requiring a Limited Conservatorship. Can I establish a Conservatorship quickly?

If there are urgent facts, it is possible to establish a temporary Limited Conservatorship within one to two weeks. Please consult with an experienced attorney if you need immediate assistance.

Is it possible to request a Limited Conservatorship at a later date?

Yes, it is quite possible that your child is functioning sufficiently and s/he does not need a Limited Conservatorship at this time. However, due to a change in circumstances for example, due to age or medical conditions, your adult child may need your assistance and you may need to do a Limited Conservatorship in the future.

Can my child do a Power of Attorney?

It depends on how high functioning s/he is. It is possible that s/he may be able to complete an Advanced Health Care Directive. The Department of Developmental Services has a simplified version of the form. You can view it online here.