Trusts and Estates

Conservatorship of K.P.

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Cite as B291510
Filed August 28, 2019, Second District, Division Two

By Matthew R. Owens
Withers Bergman LLP

Headnote: Petition to Reappoint LPS Conservator – Required Elements 

Summary: In an action to reappoint an LPS conservator, the petitioner need not prove as an additional element that the conservatee is unwilling or unable to voluntarily accept treatment.  

The public guardian filed a petition for reappointment as conservator of K.P.’s person and estate.  At the conclusion of a three-day jury trial, the jury was instructed that in order to prevail the public guardian had to prove two elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (i) K.P. had a mental disorder, and (ii) K.P. was gravely disabled as a result of the mental disorder.  Despite K.P.’s request, the court declined to instruct the jury that the public guardian also had to prove K.P. was unwilling or unable voluntarily to accept meaningful treatment.  In its verdict, the jury determined K.P. was gravely disabled and, as a result, the court reappointed the public guardian as K.P.’s conservator.  K.P. appealed based on the court’s omission of his requested third element from the jury instructions.   

The appellate court affirmed.  There was no error in the jury instructions because the third element that K.P. requested be included was not required for reappointment of a conservator.  The statutory definition of “gravely disabled” makes no mention of the conservatee’s willingness or ability to consent to treatment.  The language in K.P.’s requested jury instruction concerning willingness or ability to consent to treatment comes from a separate statute empowering treatment facilities to initiate a conservatorship proceeding when trying to admit an uncooperative patient, and does not create an additional requirement a petitioner must prove in order to establishment a conservatorship. Further, any error in the jury instructions would have been harmless because the evidence was overwhelming that K.P. was unwilling or unable to accept treatment since he testified he did not have a mental disability and did not intend to continue taking his medications if released.

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