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A conservatee is a person who needs a court appointed conservator to handle the conservatee’s financial and/or other daily life affairs because the conservatee is incompetent to handle them.  The roles of conservator and conservatee follow from the legal concept of conservatorship which is similar to legal guardianship.  Conservatorships are typically governed by state laws. 

A conservatee can be an individual or an organization.  An example of an individual of a conservatee can be found in Compton v. Pfannenstiel, where a grandmother was affirmed as the conservator of two child conservatees because the child conservatees were incapable of handling their own affairs.  An example of an organization as a conservatee is when the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) took over the conservatorship of Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) because of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.

Even when an individual conservatee is assigned a conservator, the conservatee may retain certain rights to handle their own affairs. For example, in California, a conservatee may retain the right to directly receive their salary, draft their will, have a lawyer, get mail, and more.  Conservatees also have the right to challenge the conservator’s actions in managing the conservatee’s affairs.  If the conservatee’s rights are violated, the conservatee or the conservatee’s family may petition for a replacement of the conservator.

The degree of control retained by the conservatee depends upon the type of conservatorship.  For example, in a limited conservatorship, a conservatee retains most of their decision-making power (apart from the particular affairs for which the court has appointed a conservator); in contrast, general conservatorship may leave the conservatee with lesser decision making powers.

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]