On November 23, 2005, the Los Angeles Times published the first of a four-part expose entitled “Guardians for Profit,” written by L.A. Times staff writers Robin Fields, Evelyn Larrubia and Jack Leonard. Their reporting played a key role in reforming California’s conservatorship system. On September 27, 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Omnibus Conservatorship and Guardianship Reform Act, a collective of four legislative bills that amended California's original Guardianship-Conservatorship Law.
California Guardianship-Conservatorship Law
The provisions of the Guardianship-Conservatorship Law are under California Probate Code, Division 4, Part 1, Definitions and General Provisions; Part 3, Conservatorship; and Part 4, Provisions Common to Guardianship and Conservatorship. The four Omnibus Conservatorship and Guardianship Reform Act bills brought about a change that strengthened the original conservatorship statutes by expanding the oversight, protective services, education and regulatory requirements.
Assembly Bill 1363
Assembly Bill 1363 was the first of the four conservatorship reform bills. Its provisions expanded the conservatorship periodic review process, called for the development of education resources for nonprofessional conservators, and mandated continuing education for court-employed staff. The bill also amended the conservatorship statutes to increase the court investigator’s level of contact with a “conservatee.” The first periodic review occurs six months after the assignment of a conservator. The investigator uses this time to determine if the assignment is appropriate and to make sure that the conservator is performing his duties with the conservatee’s best interest in mind.
State Bill 1116
The State Bill 1116 amendments contained mandates requiring conservators to house conservatee’s in the “least restrictive” environment. The statues declare the conservatee’s pre-conservatorship residence as the least restrictive. If a conservator seeks an alternative location, he has to sign a declaration stating that the alternate selection is less restrictive than the conservatee’s pre-conservatorship residence, along with proof as to why this is true. SB 1116 also amended previously existing provisions regarding the sale of a conservatee’s property. Conservators may not make unilateral decisions to sell a conservatee’s property without informing the court and the conservatee’s family members. The courts are to dispatch a court investigator to discuss the sale with the conservatee.
State Bill 1550
Prior to the passage of State Bill 1550, California’s private professional conservatorship industry did not have to adhere to a specific body of standards. The SB 1550 provisions introduced the building blocks for what is now the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau, which is a regulatory body within the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The Professional Fiduciaries Bureau has the responsibility of establishing licensure guidelines for private professional conservators. As of January 1, 2008, all private professional conservators must apply to the bureau to obtain a license and the right to list as a professional fiduciary
State Bill 1716
The Senate Bill 1716 amendments gave the court leeway to request unscheduled conservatorship reviews when someone reports allegations of misconduct by a conservator or the potential for harm to a conservatee. The new provisions allow the court to dispatch a court investigator to conduct the unscheduled review. The investigator’s review includes a personal conversation with the conservatee to ensure that the conservatee is not under duress, and to confirm that the conservator is continuing to carry out his conservatorship duties in a manner that benefits the conservatee. The court has the authority to act upon the information that the court investigator provides.