ur experience has shown that not keeping accurate and complete records as Conservator significantly increases costs and can lead to problems for Conservators when it comes time to file the accountings required by the Court. Therefore at the outset we help our clients understand and observe the following record keeping principles and practices:

Identifying Conservatee’s Accounts and Other Assets

At the outset of the Conservatorship, the Conservator will need to carefully scour the Conservatee’s home and financial records to determine what accounts and other assets the Conservatee owns. The Conservator may also need to ask friends, relatives and known account holders if they know of other assets owned by the Conservatee. There may be cash, jewelry and other personal items which are not held in accounts. These items will be inventoried for the Court, and held as assets of the Conservatorship, but typically do not require the same kind of ongoing record keeping required for a bank or brokerage account, for example. (Any cash, of course, should be moved into a Conservatorship account, once it is established). This article will address record keeping only for those assets held in established accounts.

Taking Control of Conservatee’s Accounts

Initially all accounts will be in the name of the Conservatee. These accounts might include bank accounts, credit union accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies and annuities. These accounts should be re-titled to the Conservator, as soon as possible, or closed and consolidated into one or more Conservatorship accounts, depending on the assets and situation. If you are re-titling the accounts, the new title should be: Conservatorship of [Conservatee’s name], [Your name], Conservator of the Estate. It can be very helpful to keep the Conservatorship checking account in a bank that provides copies of all the checks written. We’ve also found it helpful to deal with a bank that will mail duplicate statements directly to our office. When re-titling or changing accounts one should inquire whether the bank provides these services.

When re-titling or moving accounts to a Conservatorship account, you should keep careful track of the transition. We should be able to clearly trace the transition from the accounts originally titled to the Conservatee to the accounts now titled to the Conservator.

On-going Record Keeping And Preparing for the Accounting

The Court requires clear records of all activity on all accounts belonging to the Conservatee, starting from the date of the appointment of the Conservator. One year after appointment as Conservator, and every two years after that, the Court requires the Conservator of the estate to file an accounting for that particular “account period”. To prepare the accounting we must review – and in some cases, submit to the Court – all of the account statements issued by every institution in which the Conservatee has an account. Typically, account statements are issued either monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Preparing for the accounting requires that we review all of the account statements for the account period, beginning with the statements covering the date of appointment as Conservator. Please keep careful track of all account statements issued, and establish a file-folder or binder in which to keep the account statements organized chronologically, and by account. When it comes time for the accounting, we will ask you for all of the original account statements, which our accountant will use to prepare the accounting. If you are a not a professional fiduciary, we will need to file with the Court the original statements for the months covering the beginning and end of the account period; for professional fiduciaries we will need to file all of the original account statements.

In addition to the account statements we will also need a copy of each check that is deposited, so that we can clearly identify all deposits into the account. If more than one check at a time is deposited, records should list all the checks that comprise the deposit, so we can identify the origins of all funds deposited.

Similarly, all disbursements from Conservatorship accounts should be recorded in detail, noting the date the disbursement is made, the check number, the payee, and what was paid for. We need this information even for the accounts which provide copies of all checks written, because it is not always apparent from the check exactly what it was used for.

Using Cash and ATMs

Although using an ATM card can be a great convenience, Conservators should avoid using the card to withdraw cash from the ATM. If you use the ATM card to purchase items for the Conservatee, make sure you record all ATM purchases. As with the checks, make sure you record both the payee and what was paid for. In addition to recording the receipts, you must keep the receipts until the Court approves the accounting, so make sure your filing system includes a way to keep receipts organized chronologically.

If, for some reason, you do use the ATM card to withdraw cash, or otherwise use cash to purchase items for the Conservatee, you must keep an ongoing ledger of cash disbursements and purchases. Again, make sure you keep receipts organized chronologically. It is extremely costly to have an attorney or accountant review and organize ATM receipts at the time of the accounting, so it pays off to put into place a simple recording system and to use it consistently.

Requesting Conservator Compensation and Reimbursement

If you intend to request compensation for your work as Conservator, you must keep and submit to the Court records that document the time you spent on various tasks, and describe the services rendered in sufficient detail to demonstrate to the Court that the time was spent productively. At the time of your fee request, you must report to the Court the nature and difficulty of the tasks performed, the results achieved, and show that the services performed were in the best interest of the Conservatee. You can read more about timekeeping requirements and download an Adobe Acrobat Reader version of our timesheet here, which you can print out. If you prefer, we can provide you with a paper or an Excel spreadsheet version which will help you keep track of your activities and time.

Additionally, if you pay for any Conservatorship expenses “out-of-your-pocket” and you want to be reimbursed you must document these expenses, you must wait for Court approval before you reimburse yourself for these expenses. There may be some Conservatorship expenses which you pay and for which you may be reimbursed without Court approval, but you should consult with your attorney before hand. As with the cash disbursements, keep careful records of all out-of-pocket expenditures, by both keeping a ledger of all out-of-pocket expenditures and keeping all receipts organized chronologically.

Providing Facility Statements

Finally, if a Conservatee is living in an assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility or board and care you should keep a file folder or binder for the monthly Facilities Statements, which will also be reviewed by the Court at the time of the accounting. If you don’t receive such a document, you should arrange to receive one each month. If the facility does not issue regular statements, please discuss this with an attorney immediately so that we may advise you accordingly.

A more detailed account of your duties to control, manage, and account for the Conservatee’s assets can be found in the Handbook for Conservators, issued by the Judicial Council of California, which you should have received upon your appointment as Conservator. And the attorneys and staff at Camp  Rousseau  Montgomery, LLP are always more than happy to help you through any difficulties you may encounter in your record keeping for the Conservatorship.