Conservators Cannot Represent Conservatees In Pro Per (Without Counsel) in Legal Proceedings

In California, the Courts may appoint a conservator for any individual who is gravely disabled due to a mental disorder.  (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 5350.)  Gravely disabled means a condition in which a person, as a result of mental disorder, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal need for food, clothing, or shelter.  (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 5008.)  Once appointed, the Court may grant a conservator substantial powers, including the power to require the conservatee to receive medical attention and, when granted by the Court, the power to place the conservatee in a psychiatric nursing facility.   (Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 5358.)

While granted substantial powers, conservators, who are unlicensed to practice law, must remember that they cannot appear in pro per in matters outside of the probate proceedings.  (City of Downey v. Johnson (1968) 263 CA2d 775, 779, 69 CR 830, 833; Hansen v. Hansen (2003) 114 CA4th 618, 621.)  In other words, in any matter that is not in front of the probate court, the conservator must retain legal counsel unless he or she is licensed to practice law.  In fact, a conservator who attempts to represent a conservatee or estate without legal counsel is deemed to be participating in the unauthorized practice of law.  (Hansen v. Hansen (2003) 114 CA4th 618, 622. [“[P]rohibiting unlicensed practice is within the ‘police power [of the state] and is designed to assure the competency of those performing [legal] services.”])  Therefore, when prosecuting or defending a claim, on behalf of the conservator or the estate, it is incredibly important that any non-lawyer conservator retain legal counsel when appearing outside the probate court.   Schorr Law, APC attorneys have seen and heard of multiple matters where a conservator could not pursue a claim in court as a result of showing up without a licensed attorney.

Nearly from its inception, Schorr Law, APC’s attorneys have dealt with matters involving conservatorships.  As a firm dealing primarily in matters involving real estate, Schorr, Law APC’s attorneys are uniquely positioned to represent California estates that possess real estate property.

For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, regarding representing a conservatee or estate, please contact us at (310) 954-1877 or


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