It can be a great act of kindness when a person serves as a conservator for an elderly loved one, making important financial decisions for a person who no longer has the capacity to make these decision. However, California law gives conservators a lot of power over another person, and the potential for abuse is serious. The courts must be sure the conservator is acting in the elderly person's best interest.
Many disputes in trust and probate litigation concern the validity of a will, and for good reason. A will is a very powerful document. The person who created the will is no longer around to clear up any confusion or misunderstandings, and so the language must be very precise. The probate court examining the will needs to be certain that the will represents the person's wishes, and so it must find that the will meets strict formal requirements. Some of the most difficult cases involve handwritten wills.
As its name implies, a trust depends on trusting someone. A trustee is someone with an enormous amount of power over assets that are supposed to be managed on behalf of the beneficiaries. This is a big responsibility, and it can be a terrible problem if the trustee acts negligently.
Ordinarily, California's conservatorship law comes up in the context of an elderly person who needs help with financial matters and other important decisions. Over the past decade or so, the most famous example of a conservatorship has been very different.
Many cases of trust and probate litigation arise when people who thought they might inherit something from a friend or relative find out only after that person's death that they were left out of the will. But if they aren't named in the will, how do they find out? The answer is in the California probate court's requirement of notice.