Who Can File A Petition Relating To A Power Of Attorney – Almost Anyone, Including Any Interested Person Or Friend

If you have a question or dispute about how a power of attorney operates, or how it should be or is being used, the California Probate Code allows almost anyone to file a petition with the Court for instructions or other remedies. See the provisions of Probate Code Sections 4540 and 4541 below.

Also note, there are powers of attorney for financial and asset management, and powers of attorney for health care and daily living – although some of the provisions are similar, there are important differences. And, perhaps outside of common knowledge, it is not always clear when, for how long, and for what decision making a person can become and becomes an attorney in fact, what decisions can be made, what decisions are legally prudent, and what people and resources, including the principal, might be or in circumstances should be or must be consulted about the matter at hand and possible options for decision making. 

California Probate Code Section 4540 provides as follows:

Subject to Section 4503, a petition may be filed under this part by any of the following persons:

(a) The attorney-in-fact.

(b) The principal.

(c) The spouse of the principal.

(d) A relative of the principal.

(e) The conservator of the person or estate of the principal.

(f) The court investigator, described in Section 1454, of the county where the power of attorney was executed or where the principal resides.

(g) The public guardian of the county where the power of attorney was executed or where the principal resides.

(h) The personal representative or trustee of the principal’s estate.

(i) The principal’s successor in interest.

(j) A person who is requested in writing by an attorney-in-fact to take action.

(k) Any other interested person or friend of the principal.

California Probate Code Section 4541 provides as follows:

A petition may be filed under this part for any one or more of the following purposes:

(a) Determining whether the power of attorney is in effect or has terminated.

(b) Passing on the acts or proposed acts of the attorney-in-fact, including approval of authority to disobey the principal’s instructions pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 4234.

(c) Compelling the attorney-in-fact to submit the attorney-in-fact’s accounts or report the attorney-in-fact’s acts as attorney-in-fact to the principal, the spouse of the principal, the conservator of the person or the estate of the principal, or to any other person required by the court in its discretion, if the attorney-in-fact has failed to submit an accounting or report within 60 days after written request from the person filing the petition.

(d) Declaring that the authority of the attorney-in-fact is revoked on a determination by the court of all of the following:

(1) The attorney-in-fact has violated or is unfit to perform the fiduciary duties under the power of attorney.

(2) At the time of the determination by the court, the principal lacks the capacity to give or to revoke a power of attorney.

(3) The revocation of the attorney-in-fact’s authority is in the best interest of the principal or the principal’s estate.

(e) Approving the resignation of the attorney-in-fact:

(1) If the attorney-in-fact is subject to a duty to act under Section 4230, the court may approve the resignation, subject to any orders the court determines are necessary to protect the principal’s interests.

(2) If the attorney-in-fact is not subject to a duty to act under Section 4230, the court shall approve the resignation, subject to the court’s discretion to require the attorney-in-fact to give notice to other interested persons.

(f) Compelling a third person to honor the authority of an attorney-in-fact.


Remember, every case and situation is different. It is important to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence that is available, and to apply that evidence to the applicable standards and laws. You do need to consult with an attorney and other professionals about your particular situation. This post is not a solicitation for legal or other services inside of or outside of California, and, of course, this post only is a summary of information that changes from time to time, and does not apply to any particular situation or to your specific situation. So . . . you cannot rely on this post for your situation or as legal or other professional advice or representation.

Thank you for reading this post. I ask that you also pass it along to other people who would be interested as it is through collaboration that great things and success occur more quickly. And please also subscribe to this blog and my other blog (see below), and connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Best to you, David Tate, Esq. (and inactive California CPA) – practicing in California only.

I am also the Chair of the Business Law Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

Blogs: Trust, estate/probate, power of attorney, conservatorship, elder and dependent adult abuse, nursing home and care, disability, discrimination, personal injury, responsibilities and rights, and other related litigation, and contentious administrations http://californiaestatetrust.com; Business, D&O, board, director, audit committee, shareholder, founder, owner, and investor litigation, governance, responsibilities and rights, compliance, investigations, and risk management  http://auditcommitteeupdate.com

My law practice primarily involves the following areas and issues:

Probate Court Disputes and Litigation

  • Trust and estate disputes and litigation, and contentious administrations representing fiduciaries and beneficiaries; elder abuse; power of attorney disputes; elder care and nursing home abuse; conservatorships; claims to real and personal property; and other related disputes and litigation.

Business and Business-Related Disputes and Litigation: Private, Closely Held, and Family Businesses; Public Companies; and Nonprofit Entities

  • Business v. business disputes including breach of contract; unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices; fraud, deceit and misrepresentation; unfair competition; breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; etc.
  • Misappropriation of trade secrets
  • M&A disputes
  • Founder, officer, director and board, investor, shareholder, creditor, VC, control, governance, decision making, fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, voting, etc., disputes
  • Buy-sell disputes
  • Funding and share dilution disputes
  • Accounting, lost profits, and royalty disputes
  • Access to corporate and business records disputes
  • Employee, employer and workplace disputes, discrimination, whistleblower and retaliation, harassment, defamation, etc.

Investigations and Governance

  • Corporate and business internal investigations
  • Board, audit committee and special committee governance and processes, disputes, conflicts of interest, independence, etc.

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A party filing a petition in probate to enforce a no contest clause triggers the anti-SLAPP statute

David Tate, Esq., Royse Law Firm, California (Silicon Valley/Menlo Park Office, with additional offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orange County), http://rroyselaw.com/

The following is a brief discussion about a new California case in which the court held that a party filing a petition in probate to enforce a no contest clause triggers the anti-SLAPP statute. If you have never been involved in the anti-SLAPP statute, it is a big deal. The case is Urick v. Urick, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Case No. B278257 (October 5, 2017).

Summary. Filing a petition for instructions in probate, claiming that a trustee or beneficiary had triggered a no contest clause by filing her prior petition to reform or modify a trust, is a claim that triggers prong one of the California anti-SLAPP statute Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §425.16, which means that the party seeking to claim and enforce that the no contest clause was triggered must be prepared to satisfy prong two of the anti-SLAPP statute which requires him to sufficiently establish a reasonable possibility of prevailing on the claim that the no contest clause was triggered and violated.

Takeaway. If you bring a claim to enforce a no contest clause based on an opposing party’s prior petition filed in probate, you must be prepared at the time of your filing to establish to the court, based on evidence and declarations, that you have a reasonable possibility of prevailing on your claim that the other party had triggered and violated the no contest clause.

Urick is also interesting for the court’s discussion whether the previously filed petition to reform or modify the trust triggered the no contest clause, including the discussion whether that previously filed petition was filed by the petitioner as a beneficiary of the trust or as the trustee of the trust and whether there was really a distinction that mattered under the facts of the case.

Other thoughts about the anti-SLAPP statute. I have been involved in Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §425.16 motions. It is my opinion that it is a deeply flawed statute except possibly in really obvious and clear situations and in those cases the party who has those defenses has other remedies such as a demurrer, motion to strike, or motion for summary judgment or summary adjudication. The anti-SLAPP statute should be revoked or very significantly amended and limited. To add further injury, the filing of an anti-SLAPP motion automatically stays all discovery unless a motion to allow and compel discovery is brought and the court grants that motion – thus, strategically a party might bring an anti-SLAPP motion simply to see if they can prevail even if their arguments and chances of prevailing are not good – and the statute further provides that if a party prevails on an anti-SLAPP motion they are entitled to attorneys’ fees whereas if a party defeats an anti-SLAPP motion the statute does not provide that they are entitled to recover attorneys’ fees. The anti-SLAPP statute is ripe for abuse or use in situations that might be counter to other public or judicial policies, which the court in Urick appeared to recognize, but as the court noted, nevertheless the statute is still on the books and is applicable unless and until the Legislature does something about the statute.

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What documents does a trustee provide relating to the Probate Code §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8 notice requirements?

The following discussion is about the requirements of California Probate Code §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8, and what documents must be provided by the trustee if the trustee voluntarily provides copies of documents, such as with the section 16061.7/16071.8 notice, or if a beneficiary or heir requests copies of documents. Upon request, or voluntarily if the trustee so elects, the trustee is required to provide copies of the terms of the trust. Below I have copied and pasted parts of a legal discussion on this topic, without the specific facts of the situation – so the below discussion is rather dry, but you can envision that documents and what they say can and will vary from case to case. Immediately below is an overall summary based on reading the statutes, case law, and legislative committee history. Further below I have summarized the statutes, a few cases on legislative intent, and some of the legislative committee comments.  You can ignore the underline and bold in the below materials – those were added in the original materials, but they are not necessarily relevant for this discussion. Fun reading. This is or should be an important topic of discussion for trustees, beneficiaries, estate planning attorneys, estate/trust administration attorneys, and Judges. David Tate, Royse Law Firm, Menlo Park Office but with offices in northern and southern California.


California Probate Code §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8 provide that a trustee shall provide beneficiaries and heirs with a notice, and with the “terms of the trust” either voluntarily or upon request, and that if the trustee timely and completely does so, beneficiaries and heirs are then required to make a decision whether to contest the trust within the allowable time period. The provisions and requirements of §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8 are important, and any waiver of the notice and information providing requirement is against public policy, particularly in light of the 120-day limitation deadline for filing a contest action. As no two trusts and trust situations are identical, the application of §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8, including whether the trustee has satisfied those requirements must be a factual determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis, based on the facts of the case and the requirements of Probate Code §§16060.5, 16061.7 and 16061.8 as provided therein and the legislative intent.


In relevant part, California Probate Code §16061.7 requires that:

(a) A trustee shall serve a notification by the trustee as described in this section in the following events:

(1) When a revocable trust or any portion thereof becomes irrevocable because of the death of one or more of the settlors of the trust, or because, by the express terms of the trust, the trust becomes irrevocable within one year of the death of a settlor because of a contingency related to the death of one or more of the settlors of the trust.

(2) Whenever there is a change of trustee of an irrevocable trust.

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(b) The notification by the trustee required by subdivision (a) shall be served on each of the following:

(1) Each beneficiary of the irrevocable trust or irrevocable portion of the trust, subject to the limitations of Section 15804.

(2) Each heir of the deceased settlor, if the event that requires notification is the death of a settlor or irrevocability within one year of the death of the settlor of the trust by the express terms of the trust because of a contingency related to the death of a settlor.

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(e) The notification by trustee shall be served by mail to the last known address, pursuant to Section 1215, or by personal delivery.

(f) The notification by trustee shall be served not later than 60 days following the occurrence of the event requiring service of the notification by trustee, or 60 days after the trustee became aware of the existence of a person entitled to receive notification by trustee, if that person was not known to the trustee on the occurrence of the event requiring service of the notification. If there is a vacancy in the office of the trustee on the date of the occurrence of the event requiring service of the notification by trustee, or if that event causes a vacancy, then the 60-day period for service of the notification by trustee commences on the date the new trustee commences to serve as trustee.

(g) The notification by trustee shall contain the following information:

(1) The identity of the settlor or settlors of the trust and the date of execution of the trust instrument.

(2) The name, mailing address and telephone number of each trustee of the trust.

(3) The address of the physical location where the principal place of administration of the trust is located, pursuant to Section 17002.

(4) Any additional information that may be expressly required by the terms of the trust instrument.

(5) A notification that the recipient is entitled, upon reasonable request to the trustee, to receive from the trustee a true and complete copy of the terms of the trust.

(h) If the notification by the trustee is served because a revocable trust or any portion of it has become irrevocable because of the death of one or more settlors of the trust, or because, by the express terms of the trust, the trust becomes irrevocable within one year of the death of a settlor because of a contingency related to the death of one or more of the settlors of the trust, the notification by the trustee shall also include a warning, set out in a separate paragraph in not less than 10-point boldface type, or a reasonable equivalent thereof, that states as follows:

You may not bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date this notification by the trustee is served upon you or 60 days from the date on which a copy of the terms of the trust is mailed or personally delivered to you during that 120-day period, whichever is later.”

(i) Any waiver by a settlor of the requirement of serving the notification by trustee required by this section is against public policy and shall be void. (Underline and bold added)


California Probate Code §16061.8 provides that:

“No person upon whom the notification by the trustee is served pursuant to this chapter, whether the notice is served on him or her within or after the time period set forth in subdivision (f) of Section 16061.7, may bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date the notification by the trustee is served upon him or her, or 60 days from the day on which a copy of the terms of the trust is mailed or personally delivered to him or her during that 120-day period, whichever is later.” (Underline and bold added)


As used in §§16061.7 and 16061.8, and throughout Article 3 which includes Probate Code §§16060 through 16069, pursuant to Probate Code §16060.5 the term “terms of the trust” means:

“ . . . the written trust instrument of an irrevocable trust or those provisions of a written trust instrument in effect at the settlor’s death that describe or affect that portion of a trust that has become irrevocable at the death of the settlor. In addition, “terms of the trust” includes, but is not limited to, signatures, amendments, disclaimers, and any directions or instructions to the trustee that affect the disposition of the trust. “Terms of the trust” does not include documents which were intended to affect disposition only while the trust was revocable. If a trust has been completely restated, “terms of the trust” does not include trust instruments or amendments which are superseded by the last restatement before the settlor’s death, but it does include amendments executed after the restatement. “Terms of the trust” also includes any document irrevocably exercising a power of appointment over the trust or over any portion of the trust which has become irrevocable.” (Underline and bold added)


It is well-known that some trustees and trust administration attorneys play games with the statutory notice requirement – some trustees intentionally or by ignorance fail to provide required disclosure or they try to keep the true terms of the trust secret from the recipient beneficiaries and heirs, whereas other trustees and their administration attorneys endeavor to provide full notice and disclosure. One might ask, why would a trustee not provide full disclosure? The answers are simple, for example, the trustee has an ulterior primary motive, or the trustee favors certain beneficiaries or heirs over other beneficiaries or heirs, or the trustee believes that the beneficiary or heir will be less likely to contest the trust if he or she does not have full information, or the trustee is simply mistaken.


Statutes are to be interpreted in accord with the intent of the Legislature. The fundamental task of statutory construction is to determine and follow the legislative intent so as to effectuate the purpose of the law, including both the policy expressed in its terms and the object implicit in its history should be recognized. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §1859; People v. Cruz (1996) 13 Cal. 4th 764, 774-775; Walnut Creek Manor v. Fair Employment & Housing Commission (1991) 54 Cal. 3d 245, 268; In re Schaefer (1981) 116 Cal. App. 3d 588, 597. Determining legislative intent is to be the fundamental, cardinal rule of statutory construction. Tyrone v. Kelley (1973) 9 Cal. 3d 1, 10-11.The object that a statute seeks to achieve and the evil that it seeks to prevent are of prime consideration in its interpretation. Sierra Club v. City of Hayward (1981) 28 Cal. 3d 840, 860-861; Dubins v. Regents of University of California (1994) 25 Cal. App. 4th 77, 83. When the Legislature enacts a remedial statute, courts must construe it liberally to promote its purposes, to protect the persons within its purview, and to suppress the mischief within its spirit and policy. Tetra Pak, Inc. v. State Board of Equalization (1991) 234 Cal. App. 3d 1751, 1756. Courts consider legislative history as an extrinsic aid to help elucidate legislative intent. City of San Jose v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal. 4th 47, 54; Jevne v. Superior Court (2005) 35 Cal. 4th 935, 948; District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) 554 U.S. 570, 605. Courts also look to legislative history to confirm the Court’s reading of the statute- common sense suggests that inquiry into statutory construction benefits from reviewing additional information rather than ignoring it. Samantar v. Yousuf (2010) 560 U.S. 305, 315-323; Wisconsin Pub. Intervenor v. Mortier (1991) 501 U.S. 597, 611-612 n.4.


In this case a Senate Judiciary Committee Report with the date September 5, 1997, states (and other Committee Reports similarly state), for example:

“SECTION 23 — Trustee Notification — Probate Code Sections 16061.5 and 16061.7

Existing law requires a trustee, upon reasonable request by a beneficiary, to provide the beneficiary with certain information about the trust and its administration relevant to the beneficiary’s interest in the trust.

This bill would require trustees to notify beneficiaries of a trust by mail or personal delivery when there is a change of trustees and notify beneficiaries and heirs of whom they have actual knowledge when a revocable trust become irrevocable.

The sponsor asserts that the experience of practitioners is that failure to notify beneficiaries of the existence or terms of trusts frequently leads to or exacerbates conflict between trustees and beneficiaries. It is also increasingly common for persons to use revocable as will substitutes. In these cases, the sponsor believes that prompt notification of the heirs of a deceased settlor will reduce the incidence of trustees concealing trust assets and even the existence of trusts.”


And further, an apparently early in the legislative process or initial Assembly Committee on Judiciary Report also states, for example:

“SEC. 32 & 33 – – Trustee Notification – – Probate Code §§16061.5 and 16061.7

Existing law requires a trustee, upon reasonable request by a beneficiary, to provide the beneficiary with certain information about the trust and its administration relevant to the beneficiary’s interest in the trust. In spite of this requirement, the experience of practitioners is that failure to notify beneficiaries of the existence or terms of trusts frequently leads to or exacerbates conflict between trustees and beneficiaries.

This bill would clarify the statutory mandate on trustees by requiring them to notify beneficiaries of a trust when there is a change of trustees and notify beneficiaries and heirs when a revocable trust becomes irrevocable.”


The Cal. Probate Code §82 definition of the term “trust” includes “additions thereto”:

California Probate Code §82 states as follows:

(a) “Trust” includes the following:

(1) An express trust, private or charitable, with additions thereto, wherever and however created.

See also Townsend v. Townsend (2009) 171 Cal. App. 4th 389, 405, in which the court held that the Probate Code §82 definition of the term “additionsincludes “additions of property to the Trust.”


Further, an “instrument” means a will, trust, deed, or other writing that designates a beneficiary or makes a donative transfer. California Probate Code §45.


Probate Code provisions pertaining to powers of appointment can be found at Probate Code §§600-695, in particular §640 (manifestation of intent), §650 (general power of appointment) and §651 (special power of appointment).


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Completed (mostly) a will contest and trust real property percentage trial on Friday – read more

I have been away from the blog for a while, preparing for a very contentious and time-consuming trial.

This past week I was in trial on a will contest action, and also on related but separate real property ownership and trust beneficiary percentage ownership claims. The witnesses and experts included my client who was the named beneficiary, the contestant(s), documents in which the decedent expressed her wishes including a police report and APS records in addition to other documents, forensic document examiners, forensic psychiatrists, and third party witnesses including a very spry 102 year old woman who was a friend of the decedent (the decedent executed the will at age 103, and passed away approximately 9 months later at age 104). Issues also involve the validity of a power of attorney that the decedent executed in June 2015 (she died one month later in July 2015), mental capacity, undue influence, elder abuse, trust and power of attorney accountings, costs and attorneys’ fees, and other issues.

As you may be aware, issues of mental capacity and undue influence are not the same for wills, powers of attorney, and trusts, variously including California Probate Code §§810, etc., and 6100.5, etc., and California Welfare and Institutions Code §15610.70, and various other statutes and case law.

The will contest was denied, and my client will receive what the decedent wished and intended.

So . . . I will be back on this blog and other networking, and also on my other blog http://auditcommitteeupdate.com.

Best to you, and thank you for following my blogs and posts. Dave Tate, San Francisco Bay Area and California.


Everyday is elder abuse prevention day – video cartoon – please pass it along

Here’s a different presentation approach – please do pass it along to your contacts and people who would be interested. This is an important topic that needs more discussion. Thank you. Dave Tate, Esq. (San Francisco and California)

Can You Stop An Aging Parent From Self-Neglect At Home – by Carolyn Rosenblatt

The following is a good discussion by Carolyn Rosenblatt, on a topic that is ongoing for many, many families – can you stop an aging parent from self-neglect at home? The link to Carolyn’s article is provided below.

When is it self-neglect or self-abuse, and what can or do you do about it?

Unless you have the cooperation of the parent (and other family members), and the needed financial, insurance coverage, and time resources, and know who to contact, the issues are even more difficult to resolve. I see many family members who are dealing with these issues in trust, power of attorney, and conservatorship situations. What are the responsibilities/duties and rights, and what options are available and can be achieved? I am also aware of one California case involving a finding of elder abuse in a situation where family members did not take action to try to remedy the situation.

These issues are or can be difficult even with cooperation and resources. To see Carolyn’s article, CLICK HERE.

Dave Tate, Esq. San Francisco and California

What Is A California Conservatorship – An Overview

I was initially going to make this discussion as a video, and I still might; however, the video obviously takes more time. Below is the discussion about California conservatorships – specifically, what is a California conservatorship, an overview.

First – a reminder and an obligatory disclaimer – this discussion is only a summary of a complicated topic. You need to consult with an attorney about your situation. You cannot rely on this discussion for your situation. And this is not a solicitation for services inside or outside of California, I only represent clients in California, I don’t know anything about your situation or case, and you have not hired me for your situation or case.

Now, that having been said, the following is an overview discussion about California conservatorships.

A conservatorship is a court proceeding where the court legally appoints someone to make and manage personal, medical, daily living, residential placement, or financial matters and decisions for another person.

The person whose rights are being taken away or limited is called the conservatee. The person who is being appointed to manage matters and make decisions for the conservatee is called the conservator.

A conservatorship is a serious legal proceeding because the court, which is a state governmental entity, is being petitioned to take away or limit some of the prospective conservatee’s freedoms and personal and constitutional rights.

The conservatee has the right to fight or oppose the conservatorship, who might be appointed, and the powers of the conservator. And a prospective conservatee has the right to a jury trial.

You might ask, when is a conservatorship needed? Typically a conservatorship might be needed when a person can no longer make and manage the personal, medical or financial matters and decisions for herself or himself, and she or he hasn’t legally appointed someone else to handle those matters and decisions.

So, for example, a conservatorship might be needed if there are no, or insufficient, power of attorney and trust documents, and the person no longer has the mental capacity to execute those documents or refuses to do so.

On the other hand, a conservatorship should not be granted if there is a less restrictive way to provide the help or assistance that is needed, and if the court grants the petition for conservatorship, the court can order only the least restrictive terms, conditions and limitations that are necessary under the circumstances.

The person who is petitioning for conservatorship has the burden of producing sufficient admissible evidence to establish that the court should grant the conservatorship. Conservatorship proceedings can be very contentious.

If a conservatorship is granted, the case remains with the court for future review of the actions taken or not taken by the conservator, accountings if the conservatorship is of the estate, and whether the conservatorship is still needed.

Often a conservator is required to make very important and serious decisions. The conservatee and other people can oppose or object to what the conservator is going to do or has done. Sometimes the case will go back to court for the court to make decisions or orders.

The conservator needs to be represented by an attorney. The conservatee will be represented by an attorney if the conservatee requests one. And in conservatorship disputes it is common for other family members or friends to also be represented by legal counsel.

Recent California conservatorship court decisions have dealt with conservatee’s rights including the right to a jury trial, and in a very recent case the appellate court overruled the trial court, holding that the conservatorship should not have been granted because a friend had instead offered to provide the help and assistance that the prospective conservatee needed.

I have already explained that a prospective conservatee has the right to oppose the conservatorship, and to a jury trial.

You should also be aware that if the conservatorship is granted, the conservatee might also continue to disagree with decisions and actions that are being made or taken.

And I have also seen situations where the preexisting relationship between the conservatee and the conservator was forever damaged, and situations where the prospective conservatee, or the actual conservatee if the conservatorship was granted, then sought to disinherit the person who petitioned for conservatorship or who was appointed by the court to serving as the conservator.

There are many provisions in the California Probate Code that discuss conservatorship proceedings and duties and rights. There are too many provisions to cover in these materials. However, generally you can look at Probate Code sections 1400 through 3212. Other Probate Code sections are also applicable.

In addition to the conservatee’s rights, I also find particularly interesting and important the provisions that relate to conservator duties and decision making, including how the conservator should go about making decisions and what to consider, possibly including the wishes of the conservatee.

You can find additional information on my blogs at http://californiaestatetrust.com and http://auditcommitteeupdate.com, and you can call me at (415) 917-4030. That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

Dave Tate, Esq., San Francisco and California