How can we quickly transfer or obtain conservatorship in California?

Amykate08 asked...

My mother has Alzheimer's and lives in Colorado. Last year, my brother (lives in MN) was appointed conservator and my uncle (in CO near Mom) and I (live in CA) were appointed co-guardians. Mom has deteriorated and her home care is quite expensive, but we wanted to honor her wish to remain in her home as long as possible. As a family we have decided to A)move her to CA, close to me and B) admit her to an assisted-living facility. How do we, as quickly as possible, transfer or obtain conservatorship in CA (both duties fall under the single title in CA) and "change" people so that my brother and I share conservatorship (and withdraw our uncle, as we no longer need his assistance in CO)?

Expert Answer

There is no way to simply "transfer" a conservatorship/guardianship from one state to another. But the fact that conservatorship and guardianship are already established in Colorado will make it easier to obtain it in California. That's because a California judge -- you'll have to go before a judge to obtain a conservatorship in California -- will know that another judge in Colorado has already determined that your mother needs a guardian/conservator. However, be aware that a California judge probably has no authority to approve a conservatorship for your mother until she is physically living in California.

Once you get before a California judge, you will also have to convince the judge that you (and maybe your brother, too) should now act as conservator, and that your uncle need no longer be a part of the decision-making process. The fact that you are her daughter and that you live in California will be strong factors in favor of the judge choosing you to act as conservator for your mother. To prepare for the court hearing, and to speed up the process, you should have a sworn, notarized declaration from your uncle stating that he has been acting as co-guardian, that he can no longer perform those duties now that your mother is in California, and that he believes that it's now in the best interests of your mother that you now take over those duties. You should also have copies of the court papers from Colorado that established the conservatorship and guardianship for your mother, and that appointed you, your brother, and your uncle.

A more complicated question is whether both you and your brother should act as co-conservators in California. Despite your arrangement in Colorado with three of you acting together on behalf of your mother (which may have worked well because you always agreed on every decision, or because there weren't any tough decisions to make), most lawyers advise against having more than one person act as conservator or guardian. That's because if there's a difference of opinion between two or more guardians/conservators about some matter, it can become enormously difficult to get anything accomplished. In your case, there's also the added complication that your brother doesn't live in California, where your mother will be. So, if your brother is co-conservator and some formal decision needs to be made about your mother, your brother would either have to travel to California to sign papers or he would have to execute legal documents in Colorado that would be recognized in California, either of which is complicated, time-consuming, and expensive.

It would be wise for you to consult a lawyer in California who specializes in conservatorship proceedings, to get advice both about how to handle the conservatorship process and whether it's a good idea -- legally and practically -- to have both you and your brother act as conservators. You may find that it will be better for your brother to act as a back-up conservator -- in case something happens to you -- but that you should be appointed as sole conservator once your mother is in California.