Individuals are placed under temporary conservatorship in hearings that last only a few minutes and include no examination of evidence or testimony from witnesses. An individual’s right to self-determination is removed with the stroke of a pen. Further adjudication may never occur. Individuals languish in temporary conservatorship for years, in some cases until death.
The legislature intended temporary conservatorship to require due process and to be limited in scope and duration. Temporary conservatorship is an instrument intended to address urgent situations that cannot wait for a full hearing or trial.
Probate Code 2250(b) states:
The petition shall state facts which establish good cause for appointment of the temporary guardian or temporary conservator. However, some hearings for conservatorship are cursory and give no consideration to due process.
Probate Code 2251 states in part:
…The letters shall indicate the termination date of the temporary appointment. However, some letters of temporary conservatorship do not indicate a termination date. Those conservatorships can last for years.
Probate Code 2257 states in part:
(a) … the powers of a temporary guardian or temporary conservator terminate, except for the rendering of the account, at the earliest of the following times: …
(2) Thirty days after the appointment of the temporary guardian or temporary conservator or such earlier time as the court may specify in the order of appointment.
Some temporary conservatorships continue for years. Some temporary conservatees are subject to horrific abuse that is not curtailed by the court.
A temporary conservatorship in San Bernardino County lasted three years, until the death of the temporary conservatee. The temporary conservatee was never allowed to attend a court hearing or express her wishes to the court.
Records indicate the temporary conservatee was subject to physical abuse, mental abuse, financial abuse, chemical restraint and possible sexual assaults by a male caregiver at the assisted living facility chosen by the temporary conservator. The court consistently disregarded family’s pleas to move or protect their loved one.
Legislative intent was for temporary conservatorships to require due process and be limited to 30 days. However, such provisions may be disregarded by courts.
Clarification is needed to curtail disregard for due process and the associated abuse of power by unscrupulous conservators.