The Office of the Public Guardian, Public Conservator
Welcome to the Web Site for the San Joaquin County Public Guardian/Conservator’s Office. Our office is responsible for the care, supervision and financial
management of those residents of the County who are severely disabled, and unable to manage their own affairs and make appropriate decisions for themselves.
These individuals have either a mental illness or are cognitively impaired. For a variety of reasons, family members are unable to assist them.
The Public Guardian/Conservator conducts the official County investigation into Conservatorship matters and acts as the legally appointed Guardian or
Conservator for persons who meet the legal criteria.
Phone: (209) 468-3740
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 201063
Stockton, CA 95201
Physical Address: 1212 N.
Stockton, CA 95202
||The Office of the Public Guardian, Public Conservator
1212 North California St.
Stockton, CA 95202
Scarlet D. Hughes, M.S.W., is the Public Guardian/Conservator
for San Joaquin County and she, along with
approximately 32 staff members, operate the following
three primary programs:
Services for both Lanterman-Petris-Short
Mental Health (LPS) and Probate Conservatorships,
Services for minors with significant estate
Payee Services for San Joaquin County Mental
Health clients who are unable to manage their
financial resources and who are served by Mental
Health Case Management. The appointing authority
is the Social Security Administration, Veterans
Administration and other such funding entities.
Note: The powers, authorities, and
responsibilities associated with Conservatorship
cases are much greater than those for the
Representative Payee cases.
(209) 468-9370 Telephone Number
(888) 468-9370 Toll free form outside of Stockton
(209) 468-9377 Fax Number
||The mission of the
Public Guardian is to safeguard the property of Guardianship cases. The mission of the Public Conservator is to safeguard
the lives and property of Conservatees who cannot care for themselves with the least possible restriction of their personal
The mission of the Representative Payee function of the Public Guardian/Conservator’s Office is to manage the
benefits and financial resources of disabled persons in a fiscally responsible and prudent manner.
There are basically two types of Conservatorships: Probate and LPS. For each type, a conservator can be appointed for
the person, for the estate, or for both. The main responsibility of the Conservator is to provide each Conservatee with the
best and most independent living environment possible, within their abilities and resources. The conservator assures that all
personal care, medical care and services needed to maintain a safe and comfortable living environment are provided. In addition,
the Conservator protects, preserves and manages the Conservatee’s financial resources and all estate assets (including real and
personal property). Conservatorship fees are charged per an hourly rate and must be approved by the Superior Court prior to
Probate Conservatorships Services
Probate Conservatorship is designed to help those individuals who are substantially unable to provide for their own basic needs,
(food, clothing, and shelter), due to cognitive limitations, but who do not require care in a locked psychiatric facility. Referrals can be
made by anyone in the community by contacting the Public Guardian/Conservator’s Office by telephone, in writing, or email. The
requesting party will be asked to complete an application giving certain information regarding the individual. Upon receipt of the application,
the Public Guardian/Conservator’s Office will conduct an investigation to determine if the referred individual is appropriate for Probate Conservatorship.
If appropriate, the Public Guardian/Conservator will petition the Superior Court for Conservatorship. Pending the court hearing, the Court
Investigator will contact the person referred for Probate Conservatorship and file a report with the Court as to the appropriateness of the
Conservatorship. At the hearing, the Court will make a judgment as to whether the Conservatorship is necessary. The Conservatorship lasts
for the individual’s life time or until terminated by the Court.
The Public Guardian/Conservator does not provide Probate Conservatorship services to private individuals seeking to be appointed Conservator
of another. Such persons must petition the Court through a private attorney.
Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorships Services
The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS) provides a legal framework for the delivery of services to individuals needing psychiatric treatment,
but who are unwilling or unable to accept it. The LPS Act was enacted to prevent involuntary hospitalization of individuals in psychiatric
treatment facilities without judicial review. These individuals may be detained involuntarily under a system which combines medical judgment
and legal procedures. The individuals served suffer from mental illness or chronic alcoholism. LPS only applies to cases of chronic alcoholism
if the client continues to suffer severe cognitive debilitation, after the use of alcohol has stopped. A referral for LPS Conservatorship may only
be made by the professional person in charge of a psychiatric evaluation and treatment facility, designated by the county, or someone designated
by that person. Upon accepting an LPS Conservatorship application, the Public Guardian/Conservator petitions the Superior Court for Temporary
If the petition is granted by the Court, a hearing date is scheduled within thirty days (30). During that period of time, the individual may be
detained involuntarily, pending the permanent Court decision. Prior to the hearing, the Conservator must evaluate all possible alternatives to an
LPS Conservatorship, based on what is best for the individual. If it is determined that a Conservatorship is needed, the Conservator will recommend
the most suitable person to serve as conservator, or recommend the Public Conservator be appointed. Although the Public Conservator will recommend
who should be appointed, the Court may make an independent decision. Conservatorship lasts for a period of one year, at which time, it must be renewed
or it automatically terminates by law.
Representative Payee Services
The Public Guardian/Conservator may be appointed as Representative Payee (also called Substitute Payee) for individuals who receive Social
Security or Veterans benefits, etc., but who have no need of Conservatorship. These individuals must be unable to manage their finances.
When a request for payee-ship is received by the Public Guardian/Conservator, an investigation is conducted and an evaluation is made to
determine if the individual is appropriate for Payee services, if they are willing to work with Mental Health Case Management and if they meet
the criteria for Mental Health Case Management services. If appropriate, an application to become payee is submitted to the Veteran’s Administration,
Social Security Administration or other income source. The income source makes the final determination whether a payee is necessary, and who will be
appointed. If the Public Guardian/Conservator is appointed payee, the client’s necessities will be paid by the Public Guardian/Conservator’s Office using
the client’s benefits. Controlling the client’s funds, often provides stabilization to the client, and improves his/her quality of life. A monthly fee is charged to
the client, per Social Security Administration guidelines.
Guardianship exists as a protective mechanism for minors. The Public Guardian/Conservator may be appointed to be the Guardian of the Estate by the Superior Court, when
a minor is the recipient of estate assets which are considered substantial. Generally, this occurs when there is no responsible family member available and/or the parents are deceased.
Guardianships terminate upon death of the ward, by court order, or when the ward reaches the age of majority (18 years of age).