People often believe that estate planning is merely about planning for death. While that is part of it, one of the most important aspects of estate planning is addressing the possibility of disability and incapacity.

In California, a guardian is appointed to care for a minor (someone under the age of 18) if the minor’s parents can no longer care for the child because of incapacity, death or another reason. A conservator, on the other hand, is appointed to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of an adult who can no longer make such decisions on his or her own due to incapacity.

The authority of a guardian or conservator can be extremely broad or rather limited. For example, a conservator may be authorized to determine whether the incapacitated adult can have visitors, attend certain social gatherings and more. The conservator’s authority over a person’s finances can be broad or restricted as well. The extent of the guardian’s or conservator’s authority is set forth in a Judge’s orders.

Without proper planning, a Judge will appoint a guardian or conservator. In the case of guardianship, this could very well be someone you never would have wanted to make decisions on your children’s upbringing and the management of their finances if you have left them an inheritance. Similarly, if you become incapacitated and require a conservator, the court could authorize a person you would never have chosen yourself to make critical financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf. In addition, the guardianship and conservatorship process can be expensive, take a great deal of time, and lead to infighting among the family members involved.

At the Law Offices of Esther Hopkins, P.C., we can use a number of tools and strategies to avoid court proceedings over the naming of guardians and conservators. For example, a will allows you to name guardians for your minor children in advance. Powers of Attorney allow you to choose people you trust to act in your behalf in the event of incapacity. You can also specify the types of medical care you want or do not want in an end of life situation.

That said, if you or a loved one has not made plans in advance and you are facing a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding, you do not have to go through this difficult and sensitive process alone. Fabiola Karls has extensive experience handling both contested and non-contested conservatorships. The Law Offices of Esther Hopkins, P.C. can guide you through every stage of the process while protecting both your interests and those of your loved ones.

We represent clients in a variety of disputed conservatorship matters, including:

•    Conservatorship contests
•    Breaches of fiduciary duties
•    Conservator mismanagement
•    Claims relating to fraud, duress, undue influence, coercion and lack of capacity
•    Abuse of powers by conservator

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our California guardianship and conservatorship attorneys to discuss your needs and goals.