Probate & Conservatorship
A Conservatorship is a court proceeding where a judge appoints a person to assume legal responsibility over someone’s healthcare decisions and/or finances when an individual has lost capacity and the ability to make decisions on their own. We see Conservatorship most often in cases with adult children caring for mom or dad who is suffering from dementia and who has not set up an estate plan, trust, or a power of attorney.
In contrast, Probate is a court proceeding wherein a deceased individual’s assets are administered under court supervision. We see Probate happen in cases where the decedent (aka, the deceased) has no estate planning in place, or perhaps only a will and no trust. A will by itself does not avoid Probate. In Probate, Conservatorships, or other types of legal matters, it can be tempting to try and navigate in pro per (without the help of an attorney), but more times than not, it ends up costing families more when things go awry, as court procedure can be confusing & complex. Knowing the shortcuts for each courtroom can be helpful in expediting your matter and making sure things go smoothly.
We get questions about attorney fees quite often. In Conservatorships, the attorney must petition the court for their fees and have a judge approve of their fees, which is then paid from the estate. In a Probate, the fees are set by California statute and are paid generally at the conclusion of the case, when the judge gives their stamp of approval. The out-of-pocket fees typically are not as costly as people might assume, and oftentimes we can get fees waived depending on income. It is definitely not the end of the world if someone hasn’t done their estate planning, and our firm can assist with alternative options.