A conservatorship will only be approved if the court determines that there are no alternatives available other than a conservatorship. Thus, an examination of all options should be done with a qualified attorney prior to petitioning the court for conservatorship. This is prudent not only because it is required by the court, but also because a conservatorship can be quite arduous.

The most common alternative to a conservatorship is an estate planning document called Durable Power of Attorney. A Durable Power of Attorney is executed by an individual when he/she is competent. That individual will nominate an agent to take care of his/her medical and financial decision if and when he/she becomes incompetent. Generally speaking a durable power of attorney is the only alternative to a conservatorship of the person.

There are, however, additional alternatives to a conservatorship over the estate. For example, if an incompetent person is married, that person's spouse has legal authority to make a range of decisions regarding the property they mutually hold- what is known in California as "community property". Additionally, a spouse can get court approval for a specific transaction if he or she needs only temporary authority.

Another alternative to a conservatorship over the estate is the creation of a representative payee. Certain government agencies allow the responsible third party to receive checks from a governmental agency and spend the money on the mentally incompetent person's behalf. Therefore, when the person in need does not have significant assets but receives benefits on an ongoing basis (e.g. social security, or disability) this approach may be appropriate.

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