Deficits in Mental Function Required for a conservatorship

Probate Code §811 lists four mental functions: (1) alertness and attention, (2) information processing, (3) thought processes, and (4) ability to modulate mood and affect. The petitioner must present evidence that the proposed conservatee has a deficit in one or more mental functions and that there is a correlation between the deficit or deficits and the acts or decisions of the proposed conservatee. In other words, the deficits must render the proposed conservatee unable to make and communicate decisions or to understand and appreciate the consequences of those decisions, with the effect that a conservatorship is necessary. Prob C §§811–812, 1801.
For each of the mental functions in Prob C §811, the statute identifies factors to consider. For example, alertness and attention includes, but is not limited to, level of arousal or consciousness; orientation to time, place, person, and situation; and ability to attend and concentrate. Prob C §811(a)(1). Similarly, deficits in thought processes may be demonstrated by severely disorganized thinking; hallucinations; delusions; or uncontrollable, repetitive, or intrusive thoughts. Prob C §811(a)(3).

What Is a Conservatorship

A conservatorship is a protective court proceeding. In a conservatorship of the person, a court-appointed fiduciary, the conservator, manages the personal care of a person who cannot properly provide for his or her personal needs for physical health, medical care, food, clothing, or shelter.

The conservator decides where the conservatee lives and may be required to decide whether the conservatee should live at home or in an institution. The conservator must make sure that the place selected is the “least restrictive” appropriate alternative that is available and necessary to meet the individual’s needs  but does not control the conservatee’s right to receive visitors, telephone calls and personal mail, nor other “personal rights,” unless personally limited by court order.