What Is Conservatorship and What Do Conservators Do?


If you don’t know what a conservatorship is, you’re not alone. Most people haven’t heard of it.

If they have, it’s probably in reference to Britney Spears. She’s been under a court-approved conservatorship in California since 2008. In her case, it means she doesn’t have full control over both her personal life and her finances.

But her case is not exactly typical. In many cases, a conservatorship focuses primarily on managing someone’s finances.

Read on for information that will help you answer the question, “What is conservatorship?”

What Is a Conservator?

For starters, it helps to know what a conservator is not. In many estate planning situations, a conservatorship is not the same thing as a guardianship.

Both get appointed by courts. But guardians are usually in charge of someone’s personal care. They’ll do things like make choices about the type of medical care the person affected receives.

What does a conservator do? The duties of a conservator are often focused on financial matters, including real estate and liquid assets.

Getting a conservatorship or guardianship isn’t as easy as walking into a courtroom and filling out a simple form. The courts oversee the process. This is designed to prevent any abuses of power.

Different states have different laws about how conservatorships get structured. For instance, California has two types of conservatorship: conservatorship of the person and conservatorship of the estate.

Why Are Conservators Necessary?

A conservator gets appointed in highly specific circumstances. You can’t request a conservatorship because you’re tired of thinking about your real estate holdings, for instance.

Conservators are only appointed in cases where the affected party becomes incapacitated somehow. Let’s go back to the Britney Spears example.

If you followed the news in 2008, you might remember that Britney Spears wasn’t doing so well. She behaved in ways that were erratic and sometimes violent.

The conservatorship wasn’t an overnight process. In her case, it happened due to  both mental health and substance abuse problems.

The Conservatorship Process

Conservatorship is an extreme measure designed for extreme situations. Your family members can’t take you to court and demand a conservatorship because you have a bad cold.

They also can’t do it if you’re dealing with mild or moderate mental health issues like depression and anxiety. There are plenty of anxious or depressed people who can manage their lives through medication and therapy. They don’t need the courts to get involved.

Here’s an example of a person who might need a conservatorship of estate in California. Let’s say your grandmother hands over her life savings to a scammer in Nigeria. In that case, the family might have cause to hire a conservatorship attorney and ask the courts to intervene.

What is Conservatorship?

If you’re concerned about becoming incapacitated, you can appoint a power of attorney. Someone with that power can make medical or financial decisions for you without a long and drawn out conservatorship hearing.

What is conservatorship? By now, you should be able to answer that question. But that doesn’t mean you need to lie awake worrying about the possibility that you’ll need one.

A financial adviser is another person who can help you care for and grow your estate. For more, read our blog on the benefits of hiring one.


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