Our Members Roles in Serving Californians
Public Administrators, Public Guardians and Public Conservators act under the authority granted by the California Superior Court. We have provided a brief outline of each role to better understand what our members do each day when serving California’s most vulnerable dependent adults and decedent estates.
The Public Administrator function handles the disposition of deceased estates. The Public Administrator serves the public by investigating and administering the estates of persons who die with no will or without an appropriate person willing or able to act as administrator. The Public Administrator’s primary duties are to protect the decedent’s property from waste, loss or theft; make appropriate burial arrangements; conduct thorough investigations to discover all assets; liquidate assets at public sale or distribute assets to heirs; pay the decedent’s bills and taxes; and locate persons entitled to inherit from the estate and ensure that these individuals receive their inheritance.
The Public Guardian function is carried out via Probate Conservatorships, which assist individuals who are substantially unable to provide for their own basic needs, (food, clothing, and shelter). Probate Conservatorships are primarily established for adults who cannot care for themselves or manage their own finances. This type of conservatorship is often used for older adults with severe limitations and for younger people who have serious cognitive impairments.
The Public Conservatorship function is performed via an LPS Conservatorship. This type of conservatorship is named for the three Assemblymen who sponsored the original bill – Lanterman, Petris and Short Act. LPS conservatorships are established to arrange mental health treatment and placement for people who are unable to provide for their food, clothing, shelter, and treatment needs, as a result of a mental disorder. LPS Conservatorship provides a legal framework for the delivery of services to individuals needing psychiatric treatment, but who are unwilling or unable to accept it.
Each county in California has the discretion to organize its’ Public Administrator, Public Guardian and Public Conservator (PA, PG, PC) functions in whatever manner it wishes. The following are some examples of possible county organizational structures for the three functions:
- Public Administrator is an elected official and/or is organizationally part of the: Tax Collector/Auditor’s Office, Sheriff and/or Coroner’s Office or the District Attorney’s Office
- Public Guardian is organizationally part of a Social Service, Adult & Aging, or Senior Services Department
- Public Conservator is organizationally part of the Department of Mental Health
- Public Guardian is combined with the Public Conservator function and part of a larger department, such as the Department of Mental Health, Department of Health & Human Services, Department of Behavioral Health Services, or Department of Health Care Services, etc.
- Public Administrator, Public Guardian, and Public Conservator are all together and organizationally part of a larger agency such as Health & Human Services, Agency on Aging, Behavior Health Services or Department of Health Care Services etc.
- Public Administrator, Public Guardian, Public Conservator are all together and is an independent/stand-alone department