Bet Tzedek Legal Services is a non-profit, public interest law center which provides free legal services to low- income residents of Los Angeles County. Bet Tzedek means “House of Justice” in Hebrew. Bet Tzedek serves persons of all racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds.
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Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this book or portions thereof, provided Bet Tzedek is acknowledged in writing on each page reproduced and such copies are not offered for sale in any manner. Printed in the United States of America Author: Yolande Erickson
The authors and publisher have done everything possible to make this booklet accurate, up to date, and in accord with accepted standards at the time of publication. The authors, editors, and publisher are not responsible for errors or omissions or for consequences from application of the book, and make no warranty, expressed or implied, in regard to the contents of the booklet.
Important Note: The Limited Conservatorship Guide is based almost exclusively on California law. It is intended for use by California residents, although some aspects may be applicable in other states. This guide is not a substitute for the independent judgment and skills of an attorney or other professional. If you require legal or other expert advice, please consult a competent professional in your geographic area to supplement and verify the information contained in this guide.
What is a professional conservator? 2
Post Hearing: Order and Letters 10
How to Change a Limited Conservatorship 10
Seven Powers: Probate Code §2351.5 12
SSI—Supplemental Security Income 19
SSDI—Social Security Disability Insurance 19
IHSS—In-Home Supportive Services 19
Transportation, Recreation, Social, Educational and Employment 20
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (Advance Directives) 26
Marriage or Domestic Partnership 28
Appendix A: Los Angeles County Regional Centers 48
Appendix B: Letters of Conservatorship 49
Appendix C: Care Plan 51
Appendix D: Overview of California’s Conservatorship System 55
Ms. Erickson has been an attorney with Bet Tzedek since 1999. She joined the Family Caregiver Unit as the conservatorship attorney and was responsible for the growth of the innovative conservatorship practice at Bet Tzedek for which she received the Jack Skirball Community Justice Award.
Ms. Erickson worked on conservatorship legislation Bet Tzedek co-sponsored in the California Legislature. She testified before the Judicial Council of California’s Probate Conservatorship Task Force about improving the practices and procedures of probate conservatorships. Ms. Erickson is a contributing author to the CEB California Conservatorship Practice Guide. A member of the International Guardianship Network, she has represented Bet Tzedek as a speaker, nationally and internationally in Canada, Japan, Israel, Germany and Australia.
Ms. Erickson’s outreach efforts include the opening of the Self -Help Conservatorship Clinic, in partnership with the Los Angeles Superior Court; the Family Matters project, providing limited conservatorships for students at special needs schools and the Transitions Project. As Director of the Transitions Project, she sought to identify and respond to the legal and social issues of the aging Intellectual/Developmentally Disabled population through the creation of a coalition of both professionals and stakeholders.
The author and Bet Tzedek would like to thank: the UniHealth Foundation for their support of the project; Janet Morris, Kim Selfon, Dominique Sanz-David, Yadira Garcia, Bertha Sanchez-Hayden, Michelle Wolf, and Stephanie Koguchi for their contributions to the development of this guide.
This guide is designed to inform the reader about the process of obtaining a limited conservatorship and what to do once the conservatorship is established in the state of California. The guide also discusses the alternatives to conservatorship which should be explored prior to seeking a limited conservatorship. Adults with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities, (I/DD), should receive enough support to allow them maximum independence in their lives. A limited conservatorship may be one way to accomplish this.
A conservatorship is created as a result of a court proceeding. Conservatorships give authority to the conservator to make decisions for the conservatee, an incapacitated adult.
The conservator can make decisions about the care, custody and control of the conservatee (conservatorship of the person) and/or their assets and finances (conservatorship of the estate). There are different types of conservatorships. Probate conservatorships are based on laws in the California Probate Code and include general conservatorships and limited conservatorships. General conservatorships are for people who cannot care for themselves as a result of impairments caused by aging, illness or accident. General conservatorships can have added dementia powers for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Limited conservatorships are designed to support the needs of individuals who have substantial handicaps in the areas of self-are as a result of an Intellectual/ Developmental Disability (I/DD) which originated before age 18.
There are also conservatorships for persons with mental illness based on the laws in California Welfare and Institutions Code, called LPS conservatorships (Lanterman Petris Short). They are not Probate conservatorships nor are they heard in Probate Court.
They are discussed later in this book. See Appendix D for an Overview of California’s Conservatorship System. Conservatorships are referred to as Adult Guardianships in most of the U.S. and internationally. California Probate Code §1800 et seq.
All conservatorships can be filed as temporary. They allow for temporary care, protection and support until a permanent conservatorship can be established, if the court determines one is needed. These are for people who need immediate help. They are usually in effect for no more than 30 to 60 days, or some fixed period of time, after which a permanent conservatorship can be established. The court may find there is no need for a permanent conservatorship at which point the temporary conservatorship would end. California Probate Code §2250 et seq.
A person or organization appointed by a judge to arrange for a conservatee’s personal care, to manage the conservatee’s finances, or both.
A person whom a judge has decided is unable to care for himself or herself or to manage his or her own financial affairs.
Anyone over the age of 18 can become a conservator, including a spouse, parent, sibling, relative, friend or professional conservator.
Co-conservator(s) refer(s) to more than one individual or entity acting as a conservator.
1 What is Conservatorship? 2
What is a professional conservator? An individual or entity whose profession is acting as a conservator. Some Regional Centers may act as conservators. The California Department of Developmental Services (which oversees the Regional
Centers) may act as a conservator. The Public Guardian is a county agency authorized
to accept appointment and serve as a conservator of a person living in the county. In the state of California professional
conservators must pass an exam and be licensed to satisfy the requirements of the Business & Professions Code §6501(f).
Professionals charge fees which are paid by the estate of the conservatee. The fees must be approved by the court. To learn more about professional conservators visit: National Guardianship Association, Inc at:
WHAT IS A LIMITED CONSERVATORSHIP?
Limited Conservatorships are designed to support the needs of adults with intellectual/ Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) whose disability began before the age of 18, interferes with cognitive development, is substantially handicapping, and is expected to last indefinitely. Autism, Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disability, Down Syndrome and similar conditions are Intellectual/ Developmental Disabilities. They may have a psychiatric component, but mental illness by itself is not an I/DD.
When a person with I/DD turns 18, his or her parents/caregivers no longer have the right to make legal decisions for the adult. If the adult with I/DD lacks capacity, a limited conservatorship may be needed. Limited conservatorships were set up to promote and encourage a maximum of self-reliance and only give the conservator powers that the conservatee is unable to engage capably. The court requires the petition be very specific about the powers requested. A limited conservator can be appointed for someone who lacks capacity to perform some but not all tasks. California Probate Code §1801(d).
You must ask the court to allow you to become a conservator; this is done via Petition for Appointment of Probate Conservator (Judicial Council of California Form GC310). The petition is a formal, written request, asking the judge to establish a conservatorship over the person (to care for the individual), over the estate (to manage assets), or both. The petition will also indicate which type of conservatorship you are seeking to establish (general or limited) and the specific powers you are requesting.
See Chapter 4 for a discussion of the powers under a limited conservatorship. The petition is filed with the Probate Department of the Superior Court and set for hearing. There is a fee to file a petition which can be waived for people with low income. Family members are given notice of the petition and may appear to support or object to the petition. The proposed conservatee must be served with a citation giving him/her notice of the proceeding.
Regional Centers are required to file a report about the proposed Conservatee with the court before the hearing.
This is a form which must be completed by a medical doctor, psychologist or religious healing practitioner and filed with the court. It identifies the diagnosis and medical status of the proposed conservatee, informs the court whether the proposed conservatee isable to attend the hearing, and has capacity to consent to medical treatment. The declaration should describe the adult with I/DD’s medical condition and the limitations the conservatee has as a result of his/her disability.
A proposed conservatee who agrees with the conservatorship may elect to nominate the conservator. The nomination should be attached to the petition for conservatorship.
The Regional Center prepares a report to the court about the proposed conservatee and his or her abilities. They make recommendations regarding the seven powers and the suitability of the proposed conservator. In order to obtain a limited conservatorship, there must be a Regional Center report. If the proposed conservatee is not a Regional Center client, a general conservatorship may be obtained. This will not prevent the conservatee from applying for Regional Center services after the conservatorship is in place.
PVP stands for Probate Volunteer Panel. The panel consists of lawyers appointed by the court who serve as the attorney for the proposed conservatee. They meet with the proposed conservatee, review the petition and make a report to the court both in writing and at the hearing. After the petition has been filed, but before the hearing, the PVP attorney will arrange to visit the proposed conservatee and discuss the conservatorship. The PVP has a duty to convey to the court the proposed conservatee’s wishes. If the proposed conservatee opposes the conservatorship or the proposed conservator, the PVP must report this to the court. The proposed conservatee can ask for a jury trial if he/she opposes the appointment of a conservator.
The court gives great weight to the PVP attorney’s recommendations. If the proposed conservatee uses devices to communicate, advise the PVP of this as soon as possible so the PVP can familiarize him or herself with the device. The PVP can inform the court in advance, of the need for such devices or other assistance during the hearing.
The County of Los Angeles pays the fees for the PVP attorney if a fee waiver is on file. Otherwise the fees are paid by the conservator or the conservatee’s estate. In other counties in California, the Public Defender may serve as the PVP. To see what the PVP report form covers, visit http://www.lacourt.org/division/ probate/pdf/PVPCounselReport.pdf.
The Probate Investigator’s Office investigates the conservatorship and provides a report to the court. In limited conservatorships, the Probate Investigator’s duties include a background check on the proposed conservator. After the Letters of Conservatorship have issued, the court retains jurisdiction over the conservatorship.
The Probate Investigator’s office is responsible for reviewing the case one year after appointment. The court investigator then typically visits the conservatee every two years around the time the Letters of Conservatorship were issued. Visits to the conservatee may be unannounced and can take place in the conservatee’s home, day program, or job site. The court wants to ensure the conservatorship continues to be in the conservatee’s best interest. At the visit, the court investigator checks to see if the conservatorship is still necessary, the conservatee still wants to be conserved, the conservator is acting in the conservatee’s best interests and the care provided is suitable. The investigator files a report with the court and includes any concerns about the conservatorship or the conservatee. The court, as a result of the report, can set a hearing and assign a PVP attorney to assist the conservatee.
The limited conservatorship hearing is held in a courtroom. The proposed conservator attends the hearing. The proposed conservatee may or may not attend depending upon what the capacity declaration says and his/ her wishes. The PVP attorney can waive the proposed conservatee’s attendance if it would be stressful or difficult for the proposed conservatee to be in a busy courtroom.
The PVP attorney can ask for reasonable accommodations in the courtroom to enable the proposed conservatee to attend the hearing. The PVP attorney will make a report to the court. The court will inquire about the seven powers and determine which to grant. The court may have questions for the proposed conservator and/or conservatee. If someone opposes the conservatorship, they may appear and voice their concerns or file an opposition. The court may continue the hearing to a later date to give opponents time to file objections or a competing petition.
The matter may be set for trial based on the objections or the competing petition. The court hears all arguments and makes an order appointing a conservator or co-conservators, and lists for the record which powers have been granted. If there is no further hearing set, the PVP attorney will usually be discharged.
Post Hearing: Order and Letters After the hearing, the court’s order is filed and Letters of Conservatorship are issued. The Letters are written proof of the conservatorship and should be certified by the court. The Letters indicate which of the powers the court has granted to the conservator. If the conservatorship is modified in any way, new Letters must be issued. The conservator may be asked to provide the Letters as proof of conservatorship. See Appendix B for a sample of Letters.
The conservator will be asked to file a care plan. The care plan provides the court with information about the conservatee’s residence, level of care, medical care, income and expenses. See Appendix C for the care plan form entitled “Determination of Conservatee’s Appropriate Level of Care.”
Limited conservatorships can be changed by filing a petition asking the court to make changes to the Letters, to add or delete powers or add or delete a conservator or co-conservator. This can be done by the conservator or the conservatee.
If the conservatorship is no longer necessary, a request can be filed to terminate the conservatorship. If the conservator no longer wants to serve, he/she can file a request to resign. A conservator who is not acting in the best interests of the conservatee may be removed by the court. If the conservator or the conservatee dies, the conservatorship terminates. This is unique to limited conservatorships and requires the filing of a new petition, even if there are co-conservators acting. If the conservatee dies, the conservator should notify the court.
You do not need an attorney to file for conservatorship over the person or to file for a small estate under Probate Code §2628. You will need to complete the forms required and appear at the hearing. Los Angeles County has a Self- Help Conservatorship Clinic. For assistance in your area, see Resources.
POWERS OF A LIMITED
There are seven powers possible with a limited conservatorship of the person. The conservator may be granted one or more powers or all seven depending upon the abilities of the conservatee. To promote independence, the conservatee should retain the powers he/she has capacity to exercise. Conservator and conservatee can share powers. For example, both conservatee and conservator could act together to make decisions about education or where the conservatee will live. The key is to find the right balance of powers. After the conservatorship is established, the powers can be modified, either to further limit, or return powers to the conservatee.
The seven powers under Probate Code Section 2351.5 are:
Most limited conservatees live with their families. There are other types of living situations which may be appropriate for the conservatee. This power allows the conservator to decide which living situation is best for the conservatee.
This power allows the conservator to both send and receive the confidential records of the conservatee. Since the conservatee is over 18, privacy laws prevent access to confidential records and papers to anyone other than the conservatee. This power allows the conservator access to the conservatee’s confidential records, including education, medical, and legal documents and records.
Most families want their loved ones to find a meaningful loving partnership. Conservators should be prepared to demonstrate to the court and the PVP attorney why this power should be taken from the conservatee. Most Regional Centers do not recommend granting this power to the conservator since they and many advocates view it as a fundamental civil right.
This power allows the conservator to limit the conservatee’s ability to enter into contracts. Conservatees who have difficulty handling money or appreciating their rights and responsibilities under a contract can have this power limited. Under this power, the conservator can enter into contracts for the benefit of the conservatee or void contracts the conservatee entered into without consent of the conservator, without the need for a conservatorship over the estate. This is unique to limited conservatorships.
The capacity declaration from a medical professional will indicate if the conservatee has capacity to consent to medical treatment. This power gives the conservator the ability to both consent to treatment or withhold consent, if conservator decides treatment is not in the conservatee’s best interest.
This may be the most controversial power. Conservators may feel they need to control the conservatee’s sexual relationships but not the social relationships. Both are lumped together in this power. Sexual relationships involve the issue of birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Conservators have the obligation to keep the conservatee safe and prevent exploitation and may feel that without this power they cannot do this. However, if the conservatee is independent and social, controlling contacts may be very difficult as a practical matter. On the other hand, where there has been abuse or inappropriate contacts in the past, conservators should bring this to the court’s attention in arguing for this power. Like marriage, this is a fundamental civil right that should not be taken away unless absolutely necessary.
Under federal law, adults with I/DD can attend high school until age 22. After which they may be involved in job training, enroll in college or university, or enroll in programs which teach skills for daily living. This power allows the conservator to enroll the conservatee in school or in these programs. Depending upon capacity, thi is often a power which may be shared by conservator and conservatee as they decide which educational programs will foster independence by developing skills.
The petition asks whether the proposed conservatee is or is not able to complete an affidavit of voter registration. The California Election Code §2150(d) allows an individual to receive help in completing the affidavit.
Federal voter laws allow persons with disabilities to receive assistance in voting. A person will not be disqualified from voting if that person needs reasonable accommodations in completing an affidavit of voter registration. The court presumes a person is competent to vote unless the court finds the proposed conservatee cannot communicate a desire to participate in the voting process. (Probate Code §1823). Regional centers can help conservatees register to vote.
15 4 Powers of a Limited Conservatorship of the Person
POWERS OF A LIMITED
A limited conservatorship of the estate allows the conservator to manage the assets of the estate of the conservatee. A petitioner can ask the court in the petition for both, powers of the estate and person, or just estate powers. Limited conservatorships of the estate are rare because most limited conservatees receive some form of public benefits and have very few assets. Examples of when an estate is needed include; the conservatee receiving an inheritance, owning assets or real property, receiving a legal judgment or having significant income. Conservators of the estate will need to be bonded to protect the assets of the conservatee. The conservator will need to file an annual accounting, detailing for the court how the estate is being managed and how monies are being spent.
Similar to the conservatorship of the person, there are seven powers that may be granted. The seven powers of the limited conservatorship of the estate are:
If a conservatorship of the estate is needed and the conservatee does not have more than $2,000.00 in monthly income (excluding public benefits), and there is no more than $15,000.00 in assets (excluding the home), a small estate may be appropriate under Probate Code §2628. This limited conservatorship of the estate may not require an annual accounting or a bond.
DUTIES OF THE LIMITED CONSERVATOR OF THE PERSON
The court gives the conservator authority to take care of the conservatee’s personal needs. The authority (powers) are listed in the Letters of Conservatorship. The conservator of the person has a duty to provide for the care, custody and control of the conservatee. This means the conservator must arrange for housing, health care, meals, personal care, housekeeping, transportation, recreation and education. After appointment, the conservator will acknowledge receipt of Judicial Council Form GC348, Duties of conservator. The Duties should be carefully reviewed. Visit www.courts.ca.gov/documents/ gc348.pdf for Duties of Conservator.
Most conservatees live at home. The conservator has the duty to make any residence of the conservatee safe and comfortable and ensure as much independence as possible. The residence must be the least restrictive appropriate residence available that meets the conservatee’s needs and is in his or her best interest. Options for housing outside the family home include: Community Care Facilities, Independent Living Programs, Supported Living Programs, Family Home Agencies, Assisted Living, Intermediate Care Facilities, and Skilled Nursing Facilities. If the residence of the conservatee is changed, the conservator must file a written notice with the court. Moving the conservatee out of state requires permission from the court. Visit www.courts.ca.gov/documents/gc348.pdf for the required forms.
The conservator must arrange for health care for the conservatee. This duty includes making medical appointments, accepting or declining medical treatment, and sending and receiving medical records. The conservator must obtain prescriptions, vitamins and supplements as needed and ensure they are taken as indicated. If the conservatee wants to participate in a clinical trial or experimental medical procedure, the conservator will need permission from the court. Medical authority does not give the conservator the right to place the conservatee in a locked psychiatric facility or give the conservatee psychotropic medications. Medical authority does not include the right to sterilize the conservatee.
Medi-Cal (known as Medicaid nationally) is a California medical insurance program that helps low-income individuals, families, seniors and the disabled. It pays for hospitalization, medical visits, medical equipment and supplies and prescription drugs. Therapeutic services, occupational therapy and physical therapy are also covered. For eligibility purposes, any income of the disabled adult is counted separately from the rest of the family. Medi-Cal also pays for home care through the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program.
Medicare is a federal medical insurance program for those over 65 or who are disabled. It pays for hospitalization, medical visits, medical equipment and some supplies. Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. Some people qualify for both Medi-Cal and Medicare. They are referred to as “dual eligible” or Medi/Medi.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) assists adults with I/DD by eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions, and bans annual and lifetime limits on coverage. The ACA allows dependents to be covered on their parent’s insurance plan until age 26. An adult age 26 and over who is incapable of self-sustaining employment by reason of disability may be continued as a dependent on the parent’s coverage.
While anyone may develop Alzheimer’s, adults with Down Syndrome have a high incidence of Alzheimer’s. Researchers have discovered that Down Syndrome and Alzheimer’s have a strong genetic connection. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects functioning and memory because it gradually destroys brain cells. People with Down Syndrome often develop Alzheimer’s at a younger age than the general population. To learn more on this topic visit the National Down Syndrome Society at: http://www.ndss.org.
Many adults with I/DD experience aging issues much earlier than the general population. This syndrome is known as “accelerated aging” and affects people medically, physically and cognitively. It can result in mental health issues such as anxiety, and depression. Certain events may trigger mental health issues such as loss of a loved one, change in environment, loss of functionality, etc. It is important to have an evaluation by a mental health professional if changes are noticed.
Assistance with these duties can be obtained through Regional Center programs, including training in basic living skills through Independent Living Skills (ILS) training, respite care and In-Home Supportive Services. Monies to support the conservatee’s needs for food, clothing and shelter can come from government benefits such as SSI and SSDI.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a monthly benefit from the Social Security Administration. It is available to disabled adults with little or no income. At age 18, adults with I/DD are eligible for SSI even if they are living with their parents. The income and assets of the parents are not counted. SSI is a “needs based” program meaning an individual has limited income and assets and “needs” SSI for support. An SSI recipient is allowed up to $2,000.00 in assets (excluding the home, household and personal effects). For adults unable to manage their SSI, a Representative Payee program is available. To apply for SSI contact your local Social Security office, or visit http://www.ssa.gov to learn how to apply online.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can be obtained by a child of a person who is retired, disabled or deceased, if the parent paid into Social Security. The child’s disability must have begun before the age of
In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) is a Medi- Cal in-home care program for low-income people who are blind, disabled, or over 65 years old. It is administered by the County Department of Social Services. IHSS pays for daily home care services such as bathing, toileting, grooming, shopping or cooking, for those unable to care for themselves. Each person is assessed to determine the number of hours they receive on a weekly basis. The hours given are based on the recipient’s level of need, with a cap on total hours. The monies can be used to hire outside help or pay a family member to provide services. The maximum hours available through IHSS is 283 hoursper month.
Respite Care is care provided to give the primary caregivers some respite (a break, or time off). Regional Centers have monies available for respite care if the person with I/DD is eligible and qualifies for this service.
Transportation, Recreation, Social, Educational and Employment Individuals with I/DD can attend high school until the age of 22. They can then go on to college or university depending on their academic abilities. Each educational institution should be contacted to determine what programs and resources are available to meet individual needs. Vocational training and Supported Employment programs are avilable through the Regional Centers and the Department of Rehabilitation. For persons with more significant disabilities, there are programs through the California Department of Developmental Services which provide work and community integration opportunities.
A conservator of the person or estate can apply for a passport for the conservatee. Pursuant to Probate Code §2351, the conservator of the person has care, custody and control of the conservatee. Conservators should present a copy of the Letters of Conservatorship when making the application.
Conservators have a duty to stop abuse or neglect. “Abuse” is defined as either: physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment resulting in physical harm or pain or mental suffering OR the deprivation by a care custodian of “goods or services” that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering. “Goods and services” includes provision of medical care, assistance in personal hygiene, adequate clothing, adequately heated and ventilated shelter, protection from health and safety hazards, protection from malnutrition, and transportation and assistance necessary to secure any of the needs listed.
If abuse is suspected, conservators should call Adult Protective Services and make a report. Restraining orders are civil protective orders which restrain or stop behavior by an abuser. The Elder and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) allows elder and dependent adults and their conservators to seek protection from the court to stop abuse. There is no filing fee to request this type of restraining order. Forms are available on the California Court Self Help website at: www. courts.ca.gov/1273.htm. Temporary and permanent restraining orders are available to protect limited conservatees from harm.
THE CONSERVATOR OF THE ESTATE
When the conservatorship of the estate is established and letters issued, an inventory and appraisal must be filed listing the assets of the estate. The conservator will need to be bonded and file annual accountings with the court. The conservator of the estate is a legal fiduciary and must manage the assets for the benefit of the conservatee, not the conservator. The conservator must keep careful records and keep the conservatee’s assets separate from his/her own. If a conservator of the estate is misusing or not using the assets of the estate for the benefit of the conservatee, the court may: surcharge the conservator, remove the conservator, or take other appropriate action. Any interested party who believes the conservator is acting inappropriately should bring it to the attention of the Probate Investigator or bring an action for removal of the conservator of the estate.
Conservatees receive a copy of a document called Notice of Conservatee’s Rights. It states that every conservatee has the right to be treated with understanding and respect and be well cared for.
Conservatees keep the right to:
Unless limited by court order, the conservatee can:
All males who are U.S. citizens ages 18 through 25 must register with the Selective Service, even if their disability would disqualify them from military service. Even though presently there is no draft, adult males with I/DD must register with the Selective Service.
I want my mom to be my conservator because she helps me make choices.
—Jenny S., Bet Tzedek Client
ALTERNATIVES TO CONSERVATORSHIP
A conservatorship is not necessary if there are other ways to meet the needs of the individual with I/DD. For those people who have the capacity to understand and execute documents, there may be no need for a conservatorship of the person or estate or both. The petition for conservatorship asks if there are alternatives available. The court may not grant the conservatorship if there are less restrictive alternatives.
The supported decision making model allows people impacted with I/DD to use their circle of support (friends, family, fiduciaries, and trusted individuals) to help them make personal, financial, and legal decisions. The following list of alternatives provides legal authority for someone to assist with decision making (more information may be found at www.ambar.org/practicaltool).
A durable power of attorney for finances allows an individual with capacity to name an agent or agents to make financial decisions on his or her behalf. It can take effect immediately or when the maker loses capacity to make such decisions. The document must be notarized. This power of attorney does not limit the rights of the maker and can be revoked at anytime.
The Uniform Statutory Form Power of Attorney (Probate Code §4401) allows the maker to grant to the agent(s) one or more or all of the following powers:
Real property transactions; tangible property transactions; stock and bond transactions; commodity and option transactions; banking and other financial institution transactions; business operating transactions; estate, trust and other beneficiary transactions; claims and litigation; personal and family maintenance; benefits from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or other governmental programs, or civil or military service; retirement plan transactions; tax matters.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (Advance Directives) A durable power of attorney for health care allows an adult with capacity to name an agent to make healthcare decisions. It can take effect immediately or when the maker loses capacity. It allows the agent to make health care decisions, including accepting or refusing treatment. The agent can make end of life decisions according to the maker’s wishes. The maker can nominate a conservator in the power of attorney, should one become necessary. The nomination is helpful to the court because it indicates the preference of the proposed conservatee. The agent can receive and send medical records. If the maker dies, the agent can carry out burial arrangements as stated in the Power of Attorney.
There are advance directives written in simple terms, often with pictures and symbols which make completion and understanding of the document easier for Individuals with I/DD. This power of attorney requires two (2) witnesses or a notary and can be revoked as long as the maker has capacity.
Educational institutions have forms allowing adults with I/DD to consent to release of records or assign an agent to make education decisions for them pursuant to California Education Code §56000, et seq.
If a medical procedure is needed and the adult with I/DD cannot consent or fully understand the procedure, an authorization strictly for the procedure can be obtained from the court. See California Probate Code §3201. Regional Centers can authorize medical procedures if a conservatorship is not in place.
A representative payee can be appointed to receive, deposit and spend government benefit monies, (usually Social Security, SSDI and SSI benefits). This can be used as an alternative to a conservatorship of the estate. If John Smith cannot handle his own money and receives an SSI check, the check will read Jane Smith as representative payee for John Smith. The representative payee can be an individual or an organization. The representative payee must provide minimal accounting to the Social Security Administration on a yearly basis. For more information on this topic visit: www.ssa.gov/payee.
I don’t need a conservator. I just need a little bit of help.
—Holly W., Bet Tzedek Client
31 9 Alternatives to Conservatorship
An adult with I/DD can appoint an authorized representative to help him/her with Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) benefits including appeals and state hearings.
Joint and custodial accounts can be created to assist adults with I/DD manage expenses and provide allowances for personal expenditures. Family caregivers should be careful not to commingle monies in a joint or custodial account.
Monies (usually from a judgment or settlement of a court case) can be placed in a blocked account which is overseen by the court. Funds can only be withdrawn by filing a request with the court.
Marriage or Domestic Partnership A spouse or partner can handle financial transactions of community property or property in joint accounts for his/her spouse or partner. The spouse or partner can use a durable power of attorney for finances to manage separate property transactions.
A trust is a legal plan created to place funds and assets under the control of the trustee for the benefit of an individual (the beneficiary). See Estate Planning Chapter 11 for further discussion on this topic.
Regional Centers are non-profit corporations that contract with the California Department of Developmental Services to provide services and resources to people with I/DD. Their role is to help their consumers receive services so they can lead independent lives. Regional Centers provide support during the lifetime of the person, whether or not they are conserved. They contract with vendors and agencies to provide needed services. Welfare and Institutions Code §4500 et seq.
Consumers are assigned a service coordinator who works with them to develop an Individual Program Plan (IPP), to determine what services are appropriate and develop a plan to achieve the greatest level of independence. The IPPs are updated annually.
Regional Center Services include providing or arranging for: diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment; personal care, day care, and special living arrangements; physical and occupational therapy; job training and education; mental health services; recreation; individual and family counseling; protective services; information and referral services, transportation, respite care; and government benefits.
The conservator has a responsibility to ensure the conservatee is receiving services which both foster development and encourage independence. The conservator should attend IPP meetings and advocate for the conservatee. If you need advocacy support contact your local Office of Clients’ Rights.
Each Regional Center has a designated Office of Clients’ Rights (operated by Disability Rights California) to provide legal services to Regional Center consumers and their families. For information on the advocacy support available from Office of Clients’ Rights visit their web page at http:// www.disabilityrightsca.org/about/ocra. htm. Additionally, Area Boards are local offices of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. They advocate for the civil, legal and service rights of individuals with I/DD. They will respond to issues regarding Regional Center services.
Statewide Self-Determination Program Conservators, caregivers, and Regional Center consumers should be aware of the new Self- Determination Act passed by the Legislature in 2013. The act puts in place a voluntary program which allows Regional Center consumers and their families more control over selecting the services and supports they need. Families will receive a budget which will be used to purchase services and supports to supplement the IPP. This program is being rolled out in California over the next few years for 2500 individuals. After that, the program will be available to all eligible consumers. Information on the program can be found on the Disability Rights California website, (see www.disabilityrightsca.org).
How to Enroll with Regional Center Twenty-one Regional Centers are located throughout California. Your zip code determines your Regional Center. Call your local Regional Center and request an intake over the phone for eligibility of services. An assessment will be done to determine if you qualify for services. If you are denied services there is an appeal process. See Appendix A for a list of Regional Centers in the Los Angeles County area.
Conservators should complete their own powers of attorney (for both health and finances) as part of their estate plan. All estate plans should be regularly reviewed and updated where necessary.
A person can make a will if he or she knows what property he/she owns and, who he/she would like to receive it when they die. Both conservators and conservatees, (with capacity) should make wills.
Special Needs Trust (SNT) are designed to allow individuals to benefit from assets in a trust without losing their government benefits of SSI and Medi-Cal. They are intended to supplement government benefits, not replace them. The beneficiary cannot have discretion or control over the trust money. Money from the trust cannot be distributed directly to the beneficiary, it must be distributed to a third party to pay for goods and services.
Special Needs Trusts can be used to pay for: medical expenses not covered by insurance; transportation (including vehicle purchase, maintenance and insurance); rehabilitation; dietary needs; personal care attendants or escorts; materials for a hobby or recreation; athletic training or competitions; computers or electronic equipment; furniture; trips and vacations; and entertainment (movies, concerts, sporting events, theater).
A Pooled Trust is a vehicle for people who do not have large sums of money necessary to create and manage a Special Needs Trust. Pooled Trusts “pool” resources from many beneficiaries for investment purposes. Pooled Trusts are managed by a non-profit association which acts as the Trustee for all the beneficiaries. Money is available to benefit the adult with I/DD without jeopardizing vital government benefits. (See Special Needs Trusts)
An ABLE Account is a savings account that does not affect eligibility for SSI and Medi-Cal (unless the account exceeds $100,000.00).
The funds can be used for disability related expenses. Earnings on the account are not taxed. Individuals who are disabled before age 26 and receive SSDI or SSI are eligible for an ABLE account. More information on CalABLE is available at www.treasurer.ca.gov/ able/faq.asp.
MENTAL ILLNESS, LPS CONSERVATORSHIPS
Many adults with I/DD also have a diagnosis of mental illness. If they have both mental illness and I/DD, they are considered to have a dual diagnosis. A limited conservatorship does not allow for administration of psychotropic medications (powerful drugs which control behavior) or placement in a locked facility. In order to have these powers, a different type of conservatorship is needed, called an LPS Conservatorship. A Lanterman Petris Short (LPS) conservatorship allows for restrictive living arrangements and extended mental health treatment for gravely disabled people unable to provide for themselves as a result of a mental disorder, and who will not voluntarily agree to treatment. An individual is considered “gravely disabled” if he/she cannot provide for his/her food, clothing or shelter. The appointment process is usually started by a doctor in a mental health facility who makes a referral to the Public Guardian. A family member or caregiver can ultimately be appointed as the LPS conservator. The petitions are filed in the Mental Health Court and are governed by the Welfare and Institutions Code. LPS conservatorships last for one year after which the conservator must be reappointed.
See www.bettzedek.org/publications for an LPS Conservatorship booklet.
A Letter of Intent is a document written by the primary caregivers of an adult with I/DD that contains vital, practical information that can be shared with others. It should include information about the diagnosis, medical issues, activities of daily living, names and contact information for family members and those who play a role in the daily life of the individual with I/DD. Sources of income, powers of attorney, residential preferences and religious and social activities should also be included. The person with I/DD should participate in the formulation of the document so their goals and desires are reflected along with those of the caregivers.
The Letter of Intent is not a legal document, but rather an informational guide which can be very helpful if the caregiver is unavailable for any length of time or dies. It should be updated annually to insure the information it contains is current.
COMMUNITY PARTNERS AND RESOURCES
www.alzgla.org (323) 938-3379
24/7 Helpline: (844) 435-7259
or (844) HELP-ALZ
Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles provides families in the region with hands-on support, information and resources, while advancing critical local research for a cure. Adult Protective Services (APS) is a 24-hour service program designed to investigate all reported at- risk situations without regard to income involving individuals 65 or older and dependent adults (18–64 who are physically or mentally impaired). Types of referrals include physical, sexual or financial abuse, isolation, neglect, or self-neglect. Referrals are received through the Elder Abuse Hotline or from other entities.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides access to coverage for people who otherwise do not have medical insurance.
and Orange Counties
www.arclaoc.org (562) 940-1950
ARC provides a variety of services for persons with intellectual and other disabilities and their families.
http://aging.lacity.org (213) 482-7242
The City of Los Angeles Department of Aging provides community based services to seniors, persons with disabilities, and their caregivers to help them remain safe and independent in the community.
Area Boards provide protection and advocacy for the civil, legal, and service rights of
10) Autism Speaks www.autismspeaks.org (323) 297-4720
Autism Speaks provides supportive programs for people on the Autism spectrum. persons with developmental disabilities. Area Boards are local offices of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities.
www.asianrehab.org (213) 743-9242
Asian Rehabilitation Services (ARS) provides vocational rehabilitation and other employment services by which individuals with disabilities can achieve their highest
www.bestbuddiescalifornia.org (310) 642-2620
Best Buddies is a non- profit organization dedicated to establishing and fostering friendships among intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals. Located in each of the 50 states and abroad, Best Buddies provides opportunities for jobs, volunteer work, and e-Buddies. potential. They have multi-language capacity Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, American
Sign Language, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, Burmese, and Malay.
www.autismla.org (562) 804-5556
Autism Society of Los Angeles seeks to improve the lives of those affected by autism in Los Angeles County. Their goal is to help empower individuals with autism, their families, and professionals to advocate and navigate the service systems in Los Angeles County.
www.bettzedek.org (323) 939-0506
Bet Tzedek provides free, expert legal advice and representation to low income residents of Los Angeles County including elders, and intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals with a Self-Help Conservatorship Clinic and the Transitions Project for adults with I/DD and their caregivers.
Among their other services are, Debtors’ Rights and Bankruptcy, Elder Rights, Employment Rights, Government Benefits, Holocaust Survivors’ Services, and Housing, and Impact Litigation & Advocacy.
www.rehab.cahwnet.gov (800) 952-5544
The California Department of Rehabilitation is a state agency that works in partnership with agencies to promote employment independence and equality for persons with disabilities.
Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC ) provides education, advocacy and litigation. Legal representation is available for the following types of cases:
www.disabilityrightsca.org Toll-Free (800) 776-5746
TTY (800) 719-5798
isability Rights California (DRC) is an advocacy program for individuals with developmental disabilities. They file lawsuits on behalf of individuals or groups, investigate charges of abuse and neglect, build peer
self- advocacy groups, forge community partnerships, advocate for change in laws, regulations, and public policy, and provide information to those who may not know about their rights.
16) Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles
www.dsala.org (818) 786-0001
Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA ) provides education, counseling, employment and recreational programs for people with Down Syndrome and their families.
Easter Seals provides medical rehabilitation, early intervention, physical and occupational therapy, speech and hearing therapy, job training and employment, inclusive childcare, adult day services, camping and recreation, and other related services.
www.goodwillsocal.org (323) 223-1211
Goodwill provides resources for education, job training, and job opportunities to help foster, independent, self-sufficient, and productive adults.
www.advancela.org (818) 779-5198
The Help Group provides resources, support, and training to teens and young adults with a wide range of needs including learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Asperger’s Syndrome, executive functioning difficulties, ADHD, and other social,
emotional and behavioral challenges including substance abuse recovery.
There are a variety of housing options for adults with I/DD including:
(contact Regional Center for information)
www.ladpss.org (888) 944-4477
In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) pays for in-home care for low-income people who are blind, disabled or over 65.
Hamercaz Program for Children and Teens www.hamercaz.org
Jewish Family Services (JFS) provides services for adults, children and teens with I/DD. They also provide counseling, shelter, and food. JFS is open to all faiths.
www.jvsla.org (323) 761-8888
Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) provides job training, education and expert career guidance. JVS is open to all faiths.
LA Goal’s services include educational, vocational, and recreational programs.
Life Services, Inc. provides fee-for-service fiduciary management services including conservatorships, trust management, representative payee, estate administration, daily money management, etc.
Probate Investigator’s Office (213) 974-5859
Self-Help Conservatorship Forms www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-conservatorship
Legal information and legal services in your area
Legal information and free or low-cost legal and self-help centers
www.medi-cal.ca.gov (800) 541-5555
Medi-Cal is a California medical insurance program for low- income individuals, families, seniors and the disabled.
26) Letters of Intent
A Letter of Intent provides guidance for future caregivers of an individual with I/DD.
www.medicare.gov (800) 633-4227
Medicare is a federal medical insurance program for those over 65 or who are disabled.
National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) is a grass roots education, support and advocacy organization for families and their loved ones with a brain disorder (mental illness).
National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) advocates for the value, acceptance, and inclusion of people with Down Syndrome. NDSS provides information on aging with Down Syndrome.
A pooled trust based in Los Angeles County.
Selective Service is a U.S. government agency that maintains information for military inscription. Use this web site to register with the Selective Service System all males who are
U.S. citizens, ages 18 through 25.
www.ssa.gov (800) 772-1213
Social Security Administration is a U.S. government agency that administers retirement, disability, and survivor benefits. Use this web site to apply for or manage Social Security, SSDI or SSI.
www.tierradelsol.org (818) 352-1419
Tierra del Sol provides accredited services for adults with I/DD including educational, vocational, and supported community college attendance.
www.ucpla.org (310) 838-2217
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) provides services for persons with cerebral palsy, autism,
Villa Esperanza provides residential, employment services and day programs in Los Angeles County. Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. UCP offers adult day activity and learning centers, accessible apartments with supportive living counselors, children’s programs, etc.
http://geroweb.usc.edu/lacrc/ (213) 740-1376
The Family Caregiver Resource Center offers resources, information, support groups,
This website allows you to register to vote on-line. Registrants have a choice of nine languages they can access when registering to vote.
Provides a publication, How Regional Centers Can Help You Register to Vote. family consultations, respite, workshops, legal and financial consultations to caregivers who are caring for an adult with brain impairment at home. The Center advises on alternatives when care at home is no longer possible.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY REGIONAL CENTERS
|Regional Centers||Areas Served|
|Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center
1000 South Fremont
Alhambra, CA 91802-7916 Mailing Address: P.O. Box 7916 Alhambra, CA 91802-7916
|Eastern Los Angeles county including
the communities of Alhambra and Whittier
|Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center
3303 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90010
|Central Los Angeles county including Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena|
|Harbor Regional Center
21231 Hawthorne Boulevard
Torrance, CA 90503
|Southern Los Angeles county including Bellflower, Harbor, Long Beach, and Torrance|
|North Los Angeles County Regional Center
15400 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA 91406-4211
|Northern Los Angeles county including San Fernando and Antelope Valleys|
|San Gabriel/Pomona Regional Center
75 Rancho Camino Drive Pomona, CA 91766
|Eastern Los Angeles county including
El Monte, Monrovia, Pomona, and Glendora
|South Central Los Angeles Regional Center
650 West Adams Boulevard Suite 200
Los Angeles, CA 90007-2545
|Southern Los Angeles county including
the communities of Compton and Gardena
|Westside Regional Center 5901 Green Valley Circle Suite 320
Culver City, CA 90230-6953
|Western Los Angeles county including
the communities of Culver City, Inglewood, and Santa Monica
LETTERS OF CONSERVATORSHIP
ATTORNEY OR PARTY WITHOUT ATTORNEY (Name, State Bar number, and address):
After recording return to:
FAX NO. (Optional): E-MAIL ADDRESS (Optional): ATTORNEY FOR (Name):
FOR RECORDER’S USE ONLY
LETTERS OF CONSERVATORSHIP
Person Estate Limited Conservatorship
is the appointed
conservator of (name):
was appointed the guardian of the
estate by order dated
person estate of (name):
and is now the conservator of the
This form may be recorded as notice of the establishment of a conservatorship of the estate as provided in Probate Code section
18F7or5m. Adopted for Mandatory Use
Probate Code, §§ 1834,
Judicial Council of California GC-350 [Rev. January 1, 2009]
LETTERS OF CONSERVATORSHIP
(Probate—Guardianships and Conservatorships)
Code of Civil Procedure, § 2015.6
LETTERS OF CONSERVATORSHIP
NOTICE TO INSTITUTIONS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
(Probate Code sections 2890–2893)
When these Letters of Conservatorship (Letters) are delivered to you as an employee or other representative of an institution or financial institution (described below) in order for the conservator of the estate (1) to take possession or control of an asset of the conservatee named above held by your institution (including changing title, withdrawing all or any portion of the asset, or transferring all or any portion of the asset) or (2) to open or change the name of an account or a safe-deposit box in your financial institution to reflect the conservatorship, you must fill out Judicial Council form GC-050 (for an institution) or form GC-051 (for a financial institution). An officer authorized by your institution or financial institution must date and sign the form, and you must file the completed form with the court.
There is no filing fee for filing the form. You may either arrange for personal delivery of the form or mail it to the court for filing at the address given for the court on page 1 of these Letters.
The conservator should deliver a blank copy of the appropriate form to you with these Letters, but it is your institution’s or financial institution’s responsibility to complete the correct form, have an authorized officer sign it, and file the completed form with the court. If the correct form is not delivered with these Letters or is unavailable for any other reason, blank copies of the forms may be obtained from the court. The forms may also be accessed from the judicial branch’s public Web site free of charge. The Internet address (URL) is www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/. Select the form group Probate—Guardianships and Conservatorships and scroll down to form
GC-050 for an institution or form GC-51 for a financial institution. The forms may be printed out as blank forms and filled in by typewriter (nonfillable form) or may be filled out online and printed out ready for signature and filing (fillable form).
An institution under California Probate Code section 2890(c) is an insurance company, agent, or broker; an investment company; an investment bank; a securities broker-dealer; an investment advisor; a financial planner; a financial advisor; or any other person who takes, holds, or controls an asset subject to a guardianship other than a financial institution. Institutions must file a Notice of Taking Possession or Control of an Asset of Minor or Conservatee (form GC-050) for an asset of the conservatee held by the institution. A single form may be filed for all affected assets held by the institution.
APPENDIX DA financial institution under California Probate Code section 2892(b) is a bank, a trust, a savings and loan association, a savings bank, an industrial bank, or a credit union. Financial institutions must file a Notice of Opening or Changing a Guardianship or Conservatorship Account or Safe-Deposit Box (form GC-051) for an account or a safe-deposit box held by the financial institution. A single form may be filed for all affected accounts or safe-deposit boxes held by the financial institution.
OVERVIEW OF CALIFORNIA’S CONSERVATORSHIP SYSTEM
|General Conservatorships||Limited Conservatorship||Mental Health (LPS) Conservatorships|
|Criteria||A person who is unable to properly provide for his/her personal needs for: physical health, food, clothing, or shelter and/or manage his/her finances.
Examples of individuals under this criteria
may be suffering from Dementia, Alzheimer’s or
Traumatic Brain Injury.
|For persons who are Intellectually/ Developmentally
disabled and who are unable to provide for: his/her personal needs or finances. Examples of individuals in this criteria have been diagnosed prior to age of 18 with: Cerebral Palsy, Intellectual Disability, or severe Autism.
|A person who, as a result of a mental disorder, is GRAVELY DISABLED,
unable to provide for his/her basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter.
Examples of individuals under this criteria
may be suffering from Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, or Extreme Depression.
|Establishment||Can be filed by someone 18 or over including:
1. Spouse or domestic partner
2. Relative (parent, sibling, adult child)
3. Interested state or local entity or agency
4. Interested person or friend
5. Proposed Conservatee
|Can be filed by someone 18 or over including:
1. Spouse or domestic partner
2. Relative (parent, sibling, adult child)
3. Interested state or local agency
4. Interested person or friend
5. Proposed Conservatee
|Must be filed by the Public Guardian after investigation and upon referral by a medical professional
.Family members may be appointed as conservators after petition filed.
OVERVIEW OF CALIFORNIA’S CONSERVATORSHIP SYSTEM
|General Conservatorships||Limited Conservatorship||Mental Health (LPS) Conservatorships|
|Termination||The conservatorship continues until terminated by the death of the conservatee or by order of the court.||A limited conservatorship continues until the authority
of the conservator is terminated by:
• Death of the limited conservator
• Death of limited of conservatee
• By an order of the court stating the limited conservatorship is
no longer necessary or the conservator is removed or resigns
|Automatically terminates one year after appointment.
A conservator must petition for
reappointment each year if the conservatorship
is to continue.
|Placement||May only be placed in a secured facility
if authorized by court and the facility is
the “least restrictive placement option”
|May not be placed in a locked psychiatric facility.||Court may authorize placement in a locked psychiatric facility|
OVERVIEW OF CALIFORNIA’S CONSERVATORSHIP SYSTEM
|General Conservatorships||Limited Conservatorship||Mental Health (LPS) Conservatorships|
|Medical Treatment||Court may grant medical powers. Requires a Capacity||Court may grant medical powers. Requires a Capacity||Must petition the court for consent to any invasive medical|
|Declaration by||Declaration by||procedures.|
|treating physician or||treating physician or|
|psychologist regarding||psychologist regarding|
|individual’s ability||individual’s ability|
|to provide medical||to provide medical|
|Medications||Court may grant medical powers. Requires a Capacity Declaration by treating physician or psychologist regarding individual’s ability
to provide medical consent.
|Cannot require the conservatee to
accept psychotropic medications
|Court may authorize the administration of psychotropic medications.|
|If person requires dementia medications or secured facility it
a special dementia attachment must be completed by physician or psychologist.
Bet Tzedek provides free legal assistance to thousands of people who would otherwise be denied access to the legal system underpinning our democracy.
Bet Tzedek (Hebrew for “The House of Justice”) was founded in 1974 by a few individuals who sought to act upon a central tenet of Jewish law and tradition which appears in the Bible:
“Tzedek, tzedek tirdof—Justice, justice you shall pursue.” This doctrine decrees that it is the duty of all men and women to advocate the just causes of the poor and helpless.
Although Bet Tzedek remains intent on ensuring that the legal needs of the Jewish poor are met, we recognize that it is our duty to serve the entire community. For this reason, Bet Tzedek has always provided assistance to all eligible needy residents of Los Angeles County, regardless of their racial, religious or ethnic background.
Indeed, at Bet Tzedek, we believe that all of the groups in our wonderfully diverse society are strengthened when bridges are built that bring us together in a common, just cause. For the people who are Bet Tzedek—the lawyers and non-lawyers, staff members and volunteers, contributors and clients—our mission, therefore, is to pursue equal justice for all.