Santa Barbara Conservatorship for Special Needs

Are you caring for a loved one with a developmental disability? Our experienced and compassionate estate planning attorneys can help determine if a special needs conservatorship is the best course of action.

When providing care for an adult child or family member with special needs, their safety, happiness, and well-being are top priorities. If your loved one is living with a long-term developmental disability, a special needs conservatorship can enable you to manage their affairs and make important decisions on their behalf.

We understand that this can be a highly emotional and complex process. Schedule a planning session to get the guidance and support you need to establish adult guardianship or review less restrictive alternatives to conservatorship.

What is a Conservatorship for Special Needs?

Developmental disabilities, such as autism and epilepsy, can inhibit someone’s decision-making capacity. A conservatorship is a court order that gives someone legal authority to manage and oversee the affairs of an adult who cannot do so for themselves.

A conservatorship for special needs is a type of limited conservatorship. This arrangement aims to give family members with special needs as much autonomy and independence as possible. The conservator’s powers will be limited only to the aspects of his or her care that the conservatee cannot handle on his or her own.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Conservator?

The powers and responsibilities of a conservator are outlined in California’s Probate Code (Section 2351.5).

Responsibilities of a Limited Conservator

This arrangement empowers a conservator to manage the daily life and well-being of the conservatee.

Powers and duties may include:

  • Making arrangements for the conservatee’s living situation
  • Accessing the confidential records of the conservatee
  • Consenting to a marriage or registered domestic partnership of the conservatee
  • Entering into or terminating contracts on behalf of the conservatee
  • Giving or withholding consent to medical treatment or health care
  • Controlling and limiting the conservatee’s social and sexual relationships
  • Making decisions regarding the conservatee’s educational path

Responsibilities of a Limited Conservator of the Estate

This arrangement allows the conservator to handle financial matters on the conservatee’s behalf.

Powers and responsibilities may include:

  • Compromising or settling any claims made by or against the conservatee or their estate
  • Investing assets belonging to the conservatee’s estate
  • Selling assets belonging to the conservatee’s estate
  • Borrowing money and paying debts or expenses of the estate
  • Leasing or selling property belonging to the conservatee’s estate
  • Managing social security payments

The court will determine which areas of life are to be handled by the conservator while maintaining the conservatee’s independence in other areas. For example, the conservator may be empowered to give or withhold medical consent, but the conservatee can still make decisions regarding their education and social life.

Conservatorship for Special Needs: Key Terms

Conservatee: A person who is deemed unable to handle their own personal care or financial affairs due to chronic physical or mental challenges.

Conservator: The party appointed by the court to take charge of the conservatee’s care, financial affairs, or both. The appointed party may be an individual (such as a family member, friend, or professional service provider) or an organization.

Co-conservator:  Where the court appoints multiple persons or entities, each is referred to as a co-conservator.

Conservator bond: In some instances, an appointed conservator may be required to pay a sum of money to the court as a form of surety. The bond helps keep the conservator accountable while handling the conservatee’s financial affairs.

Regional Center: Regional Centers are established by the CA Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to provide services for Californians with developmental disabilities. In addition to assessment, diagnosis, and counseling, the Regional Center will provide a report to support your application for a special needs conservatorship.

There are 21 centers in the state of California. The Tri-Counties Regional Center, located at 520 East Montecito St. in Santa Barbara, serves residents of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties.

Applying for a Special Needs Conservatorship in Santa Barbara

The process of obtaining a conservatorship is often complex and time-consuming. The court will only grant the order if certain conditions are met. A dedicated Santa Barbara special needs conservatorship attorney is a vital resource as you navigate the application process.

A Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator is a court document that serves as your formal request to be appointed as a conservator. For a successful application, the petition must be prepared in a court-approved format and include several key pieces of information. An experienced special needs attorney can ensure the petition is executed correctly to avoid delays and setbacks in court.

The petition must be filed with the Probate Department of the Superior Court of California. For residents of Santa Barbara, conservatorship proceedings may take place at the South County division at 1100 Anapaca Street or the North County division at 312 East Cook Street in Santa Maria.

Who Needs a Conservatorship for Special Needs?

Before a conservatorship for special needs can be granted, you must prove that the proposed conservatee cannot care for their personal or financial affairs due to a developmental disorder.

Examples of these disorders include:

  • Autism
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Early-onset Dementia
  • Epilepsy
  • Intellectual Disabilities
  • Rett Syndrome

This list is by no means exhaustive. Conservatorships are granted on a case-by-case basis, depending on the evidence put forward by the applicant. A Santa Barbara special needs attorney can provide guidance on whether a conservatorship is the best course of action for your loved one.

Alternatives to a Conservatorship for Special Needs

A conservatorship for special needs is an aspect of long-term care planning that should only be considered when necessary. If it isn’t the best option for your loved one, a special needs planning attorney can help you determine a less restrictive alternative.

Alternatives to a conservatorship for special needs include:

Unsure of the right course of action? Schedule a planning session with one of our team members to get the guidance and support you need to make the best decision for your loved one.

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