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California May Adopt Uniform Law on Conservatorships

California is poised to join the majority of its sister states in adopting a uniform law designed to promote interstate cooperation on the subject of adult conservatorship proceedings. In May, the California Senate passed SB-940, a bill that would enact the Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act, a model law created by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. A California Assembly committee approved the Senate bill on July 2, and it is likely to pass the full assembly sometime this month.

Making Interstate Conservatorships Easier

A conservatorship proceeding may be necessary when an adult cannot manage his or her own financial, personal or health care decisions. For example, an adult child might petition a California court to be named conservator of her elderly father’s person or estate because he suffers from dementia. In California, a probate court supervises such conservatorship proceedings.

Because probate is handled at the state level, complications may arise if a person under conservatorship has to be moved to another state. Let’s say the daughter named conservator of her father moves him from California to another state. A new conservatorship proceeding must then be initiated in that state, costing substantial time and money.

The uniform act, as contained in SB-940, would eliminate such duplication. The act allows California courts to communicate with other state courts in order to establish a single jurisdiction over the guardianship or conservatorship. The “home state” where the individual lived for the six months preceding the conservatorship action would have priority, followed by any state where there is a “significant connection,” such as a family member.

If and when a person under a conservatorship is moved from one state to another, the uniform act allows for transfer of the conservatorship without the need for a second judicial proceeding. The courts in both states must approve such a transfer, and both states must have adopted the uniform act as law. In no case could a conservatorship be transferred from another state to California without the consent of a California probate court.

The uniform act also allows for registration of conservatorships obtained in one state so they may be recognized in another. For instance, let’s say a person under a conservatorship lives in Nevada but owns property in California. The conservator could register the Nevada conservatorship with the California probate court, thereby enabling the conservator to sell the property without going through a new conservatorship proceeding.

Conservatorships and Estate Planning

Regardless of whether the uniform act takes effect-and if adopted, it would not become law until 2016-you should carefully consider the possible need for a guardian or conservator as part of your estate plan. A durable power of attorney lets you name someone to manage your financial affairs in the event of your disability, and an advance health care directive does the same for your personal and health care decisions. By nominating agents in advance, you can spare your loved ones (and your bank account) an extended court battle over who should take responsibility for your affairs. Contact the Law Office of Scott C. Soady in San Diego if you have any questions about this or any other estate planning matter.

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