Trusts and Estates

Conservatorship of O.B.

Cite as B290805
Filed February 26, 2019, Second District

By Daniel C. Kim
Weintraub Tobin Chediak Coleman Grodin Law Corporation

Headnote: Contested Conservatorships – Standard of Review – Substantial Evidence

Summary: Trial Court Ruling Imposing Limited Conservatorship Upheld On Appeal Where Finding Was Supported by Substantial Evidence

O.B. had autism spectrum disorder. Her mother T.B. petitioned for a limited conservatorship. Following a contested conservatorship hearing with conflicting evidence, the trial granted the petition. Among the evidence presented at trial, O.B. offered the expert testimony of Dr. Khoie who opined that O.B. was not a candidate for a conservatorship and had the potential to live independently with support. O.B. also relied on Mr. Donati, the probate investigator who opined that he did not think the conservatorship would benefit O.B. and was concerned about O.B.’s removal from her great-grandmother’s home, where she had resided from a young age. On the other hand, the appellant’s mother testified that O.B. needed significant assistance with daily tasks, could not care for herself, and was susceptible to undue influence by others. Dr. Jacobs, who prepared a report by the local Regional Center, also opined that a limited conservatorship was proper except for the power to decide residence, which he believed could be retained by O.B. Dr. Blifeld prepared a capacity declaration which concluded that O.B. lacked capacity. Ultimately, the Court granted the limited conservatorship.

The appellate court affirmed. The standard of review of the trial court’s findings is the “substantial evidence” standard. While the “clear and convincing” standard applies to the appointment of a limited conservator, that standard is for the edification and guidance of the trial court and is not a standard of appellate review.  The reviewing court is not required to apply the “clear and convincing” standard to determine if “substantial evidence” supports the trial court’s findings.  The testimony of one witness can constitute substantial evidence, and the mother’s testimony was substantial evidence confirming the appellant’s inability to perform critical tasks. The opinions of Drs. Jacobs and Blifeld also supported the trial court’s findings. The appellate court will sustain the trial court’s factual findings if there is substantial evidence to support those findings, even if there exists evidence to the contrary.

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