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Conservator task force seeks comments on proposed changes

June 22, 2007|Jack Leonard | Times Staff Writer

A task force set up by California's chief justice to consider statewide conservatorship reform is seeking public comments on a list of draft recommendations that include a "Bill of Rights" for people under conservatorship and improved ways to protect the assets of incapacitated adults from theft.

In its draft report, the Probate Conservatorship Task Force also suggested that courts better protect seniors and disabled adults who are the subject of conservatorships by appointing each of them an attorney. The panel called for legislation to make those attorneys' reports to the court confidential. Such reports are now generally open for public inspection.

The proposals are among 90 preliminary recommendations released by the panel, which includes judges, probate court staff and elder-rights advocates who have met for more than a year to discuss how to better protect adults under legal guardianship.

The task force is accepting suggestions from the public until June 29. A full copy of the report, along with instructions on how to provide comments, can be found at:

The panel was set up last year by Chief Justice Ronald M. George after a Times investigation found that professional conservators were able to gain legal authority over elderly men and women and their finances without their consent.

Some conservators neglected or isolated their wards and ran up excessive fees. Probate courts, which appoint conservators, overlooked incompetence, neglect and outright theft.

Last year, the state Legislature enacted a package of sweeping reform measures aimed at strengthening court oversight of conservators and licensing those who make a living as legal guardians. The judicial task force is reviewing additional measures to improve the state's conservatorship system.

The panel is scheduled to present a final report in August to the state's Judicial Council, which sets court policy statewide and decides whether to support or oppose bills that affect the courts.

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