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Caring for Adults Who Can’t Care for Themselves



A conservatorship is a court proceeding in which a judge appoints a responsible person (a "conservator") to care for another adult who cannot care for him or herself or his and/or her finances (a "conservatee"). Limited and general probate conservatorship proceedings are perhaps the most common, although temporary, absentee (missing person), and involuntary mental-health (LPS[1]) conservatorships also exist.

A limited conservatorship (Probate Code §§ 1827.5, 1828.5, 1830, & 2351.5) is used for a person who is developmentally disabled. A conservator of this type has limited powers to ensure that the conservatee may live as independently as possible. A general probate conservatorship (Probate Code § 1800 et seq.) is for all other adults who, due to physical injury, advanced age, dementia, or other factors, are unable to provide for their personal or financial needs. In a general probate conservatorship, a conservator may become responsible for the person, the estate (finances), or both. 

Since a conservatorship bestows legal control of one person's financial or personal needs to another, compliance with the applicable statutory requirements is very important. The process of establishing a conservatorship begins by serving notice to the proposed conservatee, followed by a court-appointed investigation whereby a recommendation is made to the court. After a conservator is appointed, he or she must submit periodic reports to the court, including an accounting of all transactions made on behalf of the conservatee. These regular reports allow the court to monitor the actions of the conservator and, if needed, to terminate an irresponsible or unwilling conservator and appoint a new individual in his or her place.  


In Sacramento County, conservators must view a video before appointment, either With Heart: Understanding Conservatorship or Becoming a Conservator, and complete and file form PR/E-LP-020 verifying that they have done so (Local Rule 4.40). Prospective conservators may make arrangements to view either video for free in the Law Library (call 916-874-8541 to reserve the video and the room), or check one out to view at home (we require a $50 cash deposit unless you have a SCPLL card). 

The "With Heart, Understanding Conservatorship" video can also be viewed online at  


These books include "plain English" explanations of the law, and the forms and procedures needed to set up an uncontested conservatorship. You can find these titles in the Law Library's Self Help Collection.

The Conservatorship Book for California KFC 112 .G65
Published by Nolo Press, the premier publisher of "plain-English" do-it-yourself  self-help legal books. 

Handbook for Conservators KFC 112 .Z9 W57
This handbook, published by Judicial Council of California, is required reading for proposed conservators. It is no longer available for purchase, but can be viewed over the Internet from any computer, or in print at the Law Library.
Electronic Access:


California legal encyclopedias and law summaries provide a summary of California law on specific topics, including conservatorship. These titles are located in the Law Library's Ready Reference Collection.

California Jurisprudence (Cal. Jur.) 3d KFC 80 .C35 (Ready Reference)
Located under "Guardianship and Conservatorship," relevant topics include "Establishment of Conservatorship in General," "Procedure for Appointment of Conservator," and "Periodic Review."
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

Witkin's Summary of California Law, 10th Ed. KFC 80 .W5 (Ready Reference)
Chapter 17 addresses both guardianship and conservatorship, and section D, "Conservatorship," includes information on appointment, review, termination, and legal capacity.
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.


Although practice guides are written for attorneys, people representing themselves may also find these resources useful. These materials provide more detailed information than self-help books. Most include sample forms.

Bancroft-Whitney's California Civil Practice: Probate and Trust Proceedings
KFC 205 .A6 B36
Briefly outlining legal issues and providing forms for many conservatorship situations. Chapter 27 focuses on general conservatorships, Chapter 29 on limited conservatorships, and Chapter 30 on LPS conservatorships.
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using WestlawNext.

California Conservatorship Practice KFC 112 .C34
This detailed practice guide offers in-depth guidance, forms, and samples in the area of conservatorship, discussing both primary law and California court procedure.
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLAW.

California Judges Benchguide: Probate & Conservatorship KFC 112 .C36
Benchguides are written judges to provide them with a practical, authoritative discussion of the law and procedure on specific topics. Attorneys and others may also benefit from their straightforward information and insight into how judges will make determinations in their cases. Available in print in the Law Library, or via the Internet.
Electronic Access:
Conservator appointment, powers:
Conservatorship proceedings:

Handling a Fiduciary Accounting: Here's How and When To Do It KFC 188 .I84
This guide outlines issues and timelines to be aware of when handling an accounting. Step-by-step instructions include sample schedules, presented in the format required for all court accountings.
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using OnLAW.


Although much of our audio visual material is produced for attorneys, people representing themselves may also find these resources useful. These items are located in the Law Library's Audio/Visual Collection.

Conservatorships: the Basics KFC 112 .A75 C66

Planning for and Dealing with a Client's Incapacity KFC110 .P74


For uncontested conservatorships, most forms are available online as Judicial Council forms. For contested or complex conservatorships, any non-standard forms needed can be found in formbooks and modified to fit the situation.

California Judicial Council Forms are available at
(Select "Probate – Guardianships and Conservatorships" from the drop-down menu)

Sacramento County Local Conservatorship Forms are available at:

Formbooks contain copies and/or examples of documents and forms used in conservatorship proceedings. Some formbooks include copies of completed documents and forms to provide guidance for completing these papers.

California Forms of Pleading and Practice KFC 1010 .A65 C3 (Ready Reference)
Volume 24 contains Chapter 280, "Guardianship and Conservatorship: Appointment," to Chapter 290, "Guardianship and Conservatorship: Termination."
Electronic Access: On the Law Library's computers, using the Matthew Bender CD.

Law Office Procedures Manual KFC 77 .L44
Chap. K covers "Conservatorships," with forms, step-by-step instructions, and checklists. 


The California Probate Code, Section 1800 et. seq, governs conservatorship proceedings in California. The Probate Code is available at the Law Library in several annotated (includes summaries of cases interpreting the laws) print versions and on the Internet at the California State Legislature's website in unannotated form.


Conservatorship proceedings in California are governed by the California Rules of Court (Title 7, Probate; Chap. 22, Conservatorship). Most California counties also have local probate court rules that govern conservatorship proceedings. The state and local county court rules are available at the library in print and for free on the Internet. 


Duties of a Conservator
The California Courts Self-Help Center website contains information on establishing and terminating a conservatorship in California. Also available in Spanish. 

The Santa Clara County Superior Court
This website offers a useful Q&A guide on conservatorships.

Disability Rights California
This organization offers a guide on probate conservatorship from the perspective of the conservatee.


[1] LPS comes from the names of the California legislators who wrote the LPS Act in the 1970s: Lanterman, Petris, and Short. The LPS Act is codified at Welfare & Institutions Code §§ 5000 et seq.


Updated k4 4/2014