A sudden severe medical emergency triggers conservatorship proceeding especially when a disabled or older adult becomes incapacitated and requires the services of a surrogate decision-maker. Medical professionals and family members consult to determine the best course of medical treatment, placement and financial management. When there are no family members to take responsibility for the disabled adult, and there is a need for a fiduciary, the Public Guardian may receive a referral and conduct an investigation to determine if the agency should act.

Victims of physical or financial abuse may also be referred to the Public Guardian for an investigation to determine if a conservatorship is warranted. The Public Guardian may petition for a conservatorship when there is no one else to take responsibility and there are no other alternatives.

A conservatorship is a legal proceeding where a petitioning party seeks a court order to be the surrogate decision-maker over an adult who is incapacitated.  Imposing a conservatorship over an individual is a serious matter since the disabled or older adult loses the ability to make decisions related to consenting to medical care, placement and managing money.  A conservatorship may last a lifetime and will only be dismissed if the disabled adult regains capacity.

When the Public Guardian is appointed as the conservator, the person placed under conservatorship, is assigned to a Deputy Public Guardian to oversee all aspects of personal care of the person and financial management of the estate.