Public Guardian

The Office of the Public Guardian is appointed by the Superior Court of California, County of San Luis Obispo, to act as the Probate or LPS Conservator for individuals who require conservatorship as defined by law and where no other viable option exists.

This may involve a wide range of services based on the needs of the individual.

For example, the Office of the Public Guardian may manage finances; coordinate and secure placements for long-term health or psychiatric care; or manage various ongoing daily needs for people who are unable to provide for their own needs independently and do not have a family member or friend who is able to provide and supervise these needs.

The Office of the Public Guardian as Public Representative Payee acts as a substitute payee as designated by the Social Security Administration for individuals who have difficulty managing their financial affairs. Individuals who meet the criteria to receive services in this program are living in our communities being case managed by another public agency or private non-profit organization. Without the formal management of their monthly income benefits, they would have difficulty maintaining their housing and meeting their basic needs.  

For more information, you may contact the office at 805-781-5845.

Services

LPS Conservatorship

The function of the San Luis Obispo County Public Conservator is to act as the court appointed LPS Conservator. Public Conservators are responsible for directing the mental health treatment and placement of their clients who are:

  • gravely disabled as the result of a mental disease and/or disorder
  • unable to provide for their basic personal needs for food, clothing or shelter, and
  • require placement in a state mental institution or other facility for psychiatric care. 

An LPS Conservator has the authority to place his/her conservatee in a state hospital or psychiatric treatment facility involuntarily. Referrals for LPS conservatorships can only come from a psychiatrist who is affiliated with a licensed psychiatric hospital.

The term "LPS Conservator" comes from the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, which provided guidelines for the handling of involuntary civil commitments of individuals in mental health institutions in California. State Assemblyman Frank Lanterman, along with state Senators Nicholas Petris and Alan Short, introduced the act in 1967. It was signed into law in 1972 by Governor Ronald Reagan. This act set the precedent for modernizing the commitment and mental health treatment procedures in the United States.  

Murphy Conservatorship

The function of the San Luis Obispo County Public Conservator is to act as the court appointed Murphy Conservator for those who have not gained competency to stand trial within the period allowed by law (three years) and who are determined to be dangerous.

Public Conservators are responsible for directing the mental health treatment and placement of their clients who are:

  • gravely disabled as the result of a mental disease and/or disorder
  • unable to provide for their basic personal needs for food, clothing or shelter, and
  • require placement in a state mental institution or other facility for psychiatric care.

A Murphy Conservator has the authority to place a conservatee in a state hospital or psychiatric treatment facility involuntarily.  

A Murphy Conservatorship can be established for an individual who has been found mentally incompetent under section 1370 of the California Penal Code using the following criteria:

  • The complaint, indictment, or information pending against the person at the time of the commitment charges a felony involving death, great bodily harm, or a serious threat to the physical well-being of another person.
  • There has been a finding of probable cause on a complaint pursuant to paragraph 20 of subdivision (a) of Section 1368.1 of the Penal Code, a preliminary examination pursuant to Section 859b of the Penal Code, or a grand jury indictment, and the complaint indictment, or information has not been dismissed.
  • As a result of a mental health disorder, the person is unable to understand the nature and purpose of the proceedings taken against him or her and to assist counsel in the conduct of his or her defense in a rational manner.
  • The person represents a substantial danger of physical harm to others by reason of a mental disease, defect, or disorder. 

Probate Conservatorship

The function of the Office of the Public Guardian is to act as the court-appointed Probate Conservator for the estate of a San Luis Obispo County resident who is substantially unable to:

  • manage his/her financial resources,
  • resist fraud or undue influence,
  • properly provide for his/her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter.

As probate conservator, the Office of the Public Guardian is involved in all aspects of their clients’ lives, including financial management, housing, medical care, placement and advocacy. Referrals for probate conservatorship usually come from another community agency, institution, physician, attorney or family member.

The Public Guardian will apply for appointment as guardian or conservator of the person, the estate, or the person and estate, if there is imminent threat to the person’s health or safety or the person’s estate.

The conservatorship and estate administration service is a mandated program as specified by the California Probate Code Sections 2900-2950; California Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 8000-8006, 8008, and 8015; and Government Code Sections 27430-27435.

Representative Payee Program

The Office of the Public Guardian as Public Representative Payee acts as a substitute payee as designated by the Social Security Administration for individuals who have difficulty managing money or their financial affairs. On behalf of the individual, the Office of the Public Guardian receives their monthly income, makes payments to cover their monthly expenses and manages their financial resources. 

This program is limited to individuals who receive a steady income through public entitlements, public benefit programs or other stable, ongoing benefits programs. All applicants must have a case manager affiliated with a public agency or non-profit organization. The case manager must be willing and able to prepare a monthly budget and monitor the activities of the applicant.   

The purpose for this program is to provide financial management for individuals whose needs can be met without the formality of a conservatorship. This is in accordance with California Welfare and Institutions Code 8000; California Government Code Section 27436.