County of Marin Health and Human Services

Public Guardian

The Public Guardian manages the property, finances and personal care needs of individuals who are substantially unable to provide for themselves. For additional information about the different types of conservatorship available visit https://www.marincourt.org/probate_conservatorship.htm.

Conservatorship Program

A conservatorship is a legal arrangement set up to protect and manage the personal or financial care – or both – of an individual who has been found by the court to be unable to manage his or her own affairs. The person that helps to manage the individual’s care is called a conservator, and the individual who requires assistance with the management of certain aspects of their care is called the conservatee. In California, there are two types of conservatorships:

  • Probate Conservatorship
  • LPS (Lanterman-Petris-Short) Conservatorship

A probate conservatorship provides a way to manage property and/or provide for the personal care needs of the adult disabled and the elderly. The establishment of a conservatorship restricts the conservatee’s powers over his or her own financial and/or personal care decisions.

Prospective probate cases are typically referred to the Public Guardian Office by Adult Protective Services or the Superior Court.

An LPS Conservatorship may be established to arrange behavioral health treatment or placement for those who are determined to be gravely disabled. LPS conservatorships are designed for persons who are gravely disabled, due to a chronic and persistent mental illness.

An LPS conservatorship may be of the person only, or of the person and estate. An LPS conservator of the person may arrange for the involuntary placement of his/her conservatee in a state hospital or psychiatric treatment facility.

The selection of a conservator is in the hands of the court, which is guided in its selection process by what appears to be in the best interest of the proposed conservatee. This means that a conservator may end up being a relative, friend, interested third party, organization or the Public Guardian.

In cases where a relative, friend, third party or organization is willing and qualified to act as a conservator, that person or representative of the organization is advised to contact an attorney for information and assistance in petitioning the court for appointment as the conservator.

If a relative, friend or interested third party or organization is willing to act as the conservator, the following steps are advised:

  • Contact an attorney. (The Public Guardian cannot give legal advice or bring a petition for a conservatorship on behalf of a family member or friend.) The Marin County Bar Association provides a lawyer referral service that can assist in locating an attorney www.marinbar.org/resources/lawyer-referral-service.
  • Formulate a care plan that addresses the personal care needs of food, clothing and shelter for the conservatee.
  • Formulate a care plan for handling the conservatee's finances and protecting his or her assets.
  • The person chosen by the proposed conservatee, providing the proposed conservatee has the ability at the time that they choose a conservator to form an intelligent preference, unless the court finds that the appointment of the person chosen is not in the best interest of the proposed conservatee.
  • The spouse or person chosen by the spouse.
  • An adult child or person chosen by the adult child.
  • A parent or person chosen by the parent.
  • A brother or sister or person chosen by the brother or sister.
  • Any other eligible and appropriate person or entity.
  • The Public Guardian. (The Public Guardian is considered the last resort.)

The court will appoint the Public Guardian when no other qualified individual or entity is willing and able to act. The Public Guardian will act when he/she is assured through the conservatorship investigation process that:

  • A need for a conservatorship does in fact exist and,
  • All other resources including financial, in-home support services, private case management and family support have been exhausted. Visit the Marin HHS Community Resource Guide to find additional supportive resources.

Private parties cannot refer a person directly to the Public Guardian for an LPS Conservatorship. LPS referrals must come from psychiatric facilities approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.