When an adult cannot care for themselves and/or manage their own finances, a court can appoint another person to take protective responsibility. This creates a “court ordered conservatorship” (also called a “probate conservatorship”) between the protected person (the conservatee) and the responsible person (the conservator). A conservatorship is a formal, legal authorization for the conservator – usually a family member, close friend, or hired professional – to make decisions for the benefit of the protected person. It restricts the conservatee’s powers over their personal care and/or financial decisions. It is particularly useful when the protected person is mentally or physically unable to understand and accept help, or is vulnerable to persons who might take financial advantage of them.

Disability Rights California has a few publications on Conservatorship, including Duties of a Conservator.   

There are different types of conservatorship. Families with individuals with developmental disabilities who need conservatorship generally apply for limited conservatorship .  

It can be a very intense process and is not the right choice for everyone.  Other alternatives to conservatorship include:

  • Supported Decision-Making:  Supported Decision-Making (SDM) is when you use trusted friends, family and professionals to help you understand situations and choices in your life. It is a way to increase your independence. It encourages you and gives you the power to make decisions about your life as much as possible.
  • Durable Power of Attorney:  This is a legal document where you give someone you trust the legal right to make decisions for you. It is a way for you to get help with the supports and services you need to live independently. You can give someone the right to make one kind of decision, like medical or financial, or give them the right to make both kinds of decisions.  In California a person is assumed competent until he is found legally incompetent, therefore a person with autism or another developmental disability would have the right to sign this form after age 18 years.  You can find many of these forms online, but it will have to be notarized.

Please check with an attorney to find what works best for your family.

Local Resources

American Advocacy Group
2082 Business Center Dr Ste 235, Irvine
Assist with first-class, affordable advocacy services that benefit individuals diagnosed with developmental and physical disabilities and their families. Whether you are new to the process, or your family member has being denied a service by an agency, our goal is to take quality time to get to know you and your family, and to offer you options that will best meet your family’s needs. Provides advocacy services in the areas of: In-Home Supportive Services(IHSS), IHSS Appeals, Conservatorship, Educational Advocacy, and Due Process Representation.

Circle of Life
(951) 268-4097
Offers a number of services for the developmentally delayed population including respite and supported living services. In addition, offers conservatorship services for $1500 (about 1/3 of what attorneys can charge). Offers plans up to 4 installments. Takes approx 2-3 months to complete the limited conservatorship process.

Dignity Group – Jennings & Associates
1055 N Euclid Ave, Ontario
(909) 986- 2420
Provide families with information on entitlement programs, proper preparation of wills and trusts, conservatorships, powers of attorney, and life care plans.

Jeffrey A. Gottlieb, Esquire
(562) 699-2412 (LA)
(949) 419-6196 (OC)
(951) 240-5610 (IE)
Offers special education services, adoption services for special needs children, Limited Conservatorship of Special Needs Adult, family law and vendor resources.

Law Offices of Elizabeth McCoy
31493 Rancho Pueblo Road, Suite 205, Temecula
(760) 723-8906
Special Needs Trusts, Comprehensive Estate Planning for families with autism and other disabilities.

Law Office of Christopher A. Poulos
101 N. Orange Ave., Suite C, West Covina
(626) 960-9373
Mr. Poulos’ practice focuses on the rights of persons with developmental disabilities and their families. He can assist families in creating supported living arrangements, Special Needs Trusts, Conservatorships, Limited Conservatorships, SSI, estate planning, administrative hearings against Regional Center and more.

Law Offices of Sheela A Stark
Rancho Cucamonga
(909) 767-3890
Ms. Stark has been part of the special needs field in for over 20 years. Having a special needs brother gives Ms. Stark insight into your life because she has lived it herself. Services include estate planning, special needs trust, conservatorship, IEPs and Due Process.

Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino
(909)-889-7328 or 1-866-889-7328 (toll free)
Family Law (Divorce, Paternity, Custody, Support), Guardianships, Conservatorships for low-income families who meet income requirements. Call for locations and more info.

Jeffery C. Nickerson, Attorney at Law
29970 Technology Drive, Suite 209, Murrieta
(951) 200-4921
Assists individuals and families with estate planning & administration including: wills, trusts, Special needs planning, Public benefits planning, Planning for minors, Medi-Cal planning, Trust Administration, Special Needs Trust Administration, Probate Administration, Avoiding Probate and asset protection.

Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corp.
3233 Arlington Avenue Suite 105, Riverside
(951) 787-7711
Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation, offers estate planning, elder law and tax law services. He is a Trust & Probate Law Specialist, Certified Elder Law Attorney and Accredited Estate Planner.

Special Needs Alliance
(877) 572-8472
National, non-profit organization that can determine availability of state and federal benefits, protect public benefits eligibility, establish Special Needs Trusts, and manage Trust benefits. Services and assistance includes wills, estate planning, conservatorship, guardianship, and more.

The Autism Society Inland Empire Autism (ASIE) maintains these Resource Listings as a service to families as a reference tool. Every effort is made to ensure listings are up-to-date. ASIE does not endorse or claim to have personal knowledge of the abilities of those listed. The resources listed are not intended as a recommendation, referral, or endorsement of any resource or as a tool for verifying the credentials, qualifications, or abilities of any organization, product or professional. Users are urged to use independent judgment and request references when considering any resource associated with diagnosis or treatment of autism, or the provision of services related to autism.