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Conservatorship of the Person and Estate of Kari S. v. Kari S

August 29, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. PMH20110053)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blease , Acting P. J.

Conservatorship of Kari S. CA3


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Kari S., a Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act conservatee, appeals the order finding that as a result of a mental disorder, she is gravely disabled and unable to provide for her basic personal needs of food, clothing and shelter. She contends there is not substantial evidence supporting the order. We disagree and affirm the order.


Kari was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. She was first psychiatrically hospitalized in 2002 and has been psychiatrically hospitalized three times since then. Over the course of her mental illness, she has at various times, believed a camera and a cochlear device had been implanted in her, that someone was threatening to kill her daughter, and that her food was being poisoned. She has exhibited bizarre, agitated behavior and experienced paranoid and grandiose delusions. In 2002, her belief that her food was being poisoned resulted in her losing 15 pounds in a very short period of time. In each of her hospitalizations, she has denied any mental illness and refused treatment. Because of her refusal to cooperate with treatment, she has remained delusional. In each hospitalization, a court ordered she be involuntarily medicated. Upon discharge from each hospitalization, she stopped taking medication and did not follow up with outpatient mental health services.

In March 2011, Kari was brought to the El Dorado County Psychiatric Health Facility after a welfare check by a social worker. She had been acting extremely paranoid and guarded, and there were concerns about her ability to provide food and heat for herself. A neighbor had been providing food for Kari "for an extended period of time." However, the neighbor could no longer provide the food. Kari had "cleaned out her pantry and gotten rid of frozen food and canned food" she believed "had gone bad" or been poisoned. Neighbors had also provided Kari with wood, but she quickly burned the wood and had no other source of heat in her home. Kari also continued to have grandiose delusions about her income and employment. She claimed to have numerous sources of income, owned millions of dollars worth of vintage cars and single handedly ran an apple orchard on 13 acres of property. Kari indicated she had worked for the military but was not authorized to reveal any additional information. Kari's plan for obtaining food was to drive herself to the store to get groceries at any time; but, in fact, there was no working vehicle on her property, she had no source of transportation and no ability to provide for her own food needs.

Kari denied any history of mental illness, denied taking any medication and denied ever having been at the psychiatric health facility. Based on her claimed lack of mental illness, she refused to consider taking medication. On April 5, 2011, the court authorized Kari to be involuntarily medicated. She continued to have significant delusions and lacked insight into her mental illness. The limited improvement in symptoms led the staff to believe that she was "cheeking" her medication rather than taking it. When the medication was put directly in her food there was further improvement in her symptoms, although she continued to exhibit paranoid ideation, symptoms of mania, limited insight and impaired judgment. Kari also continued to insist she was not mentally ill and did not need medication.

In May 2011, she was moved to the crisis residential treatment program. She remained "delusional, reluctantly medication compliant, and maintain[ed] that she [was] not mentally ill and [could] take care of herself. . . . [N]eighbors and family members . . . expressed concern about her lack of income which results in her inability to provide consistent food, heat and medical care for herself."

Kari had been living at her deceased parent's apple ranch for about a year and a half. Although there were a number of assets, including a home, land and vintage cars, the titles and deeds were held either in the name of the family trust or her late father. The only living trustee of the family trust is George Montgomery, a family friend. Montgomery has control over everything placed in the trust and Kari was not a direct beneficiary of the trust. Kari did not own any of the property or assets in the trust. She did not have any bank accounts or other assets. Her only property was a Chevy Nova which was not in running condition. There was no rental agreement allowing Kari to live on the ranch. The house had not yet been placed in the trust.

Kari had no income. She was eligible for social security benefits, and had received them from 1995 to 2002. The trust provisions indicate monies are not to be given directly to Kari, so as not to preclude her from receiving government assistance, as in a special needs trust. During the pendency of the conservatorship, the public guardian's office did not receive any income on Kari's behalf. The Mental Health Department paid for her food, propane, electricity and transportation to mental health services and the grocery store. The Mental Health Department cannot sustain those payments on a long-term basis.

Kari testified she owned the apple ranch outright, owned 17 vintage cars, and all the property. She testified Montgomery had been paying the bills, but he did "something stupid," something he was not supposed to do, resulting in the account being frozen. She reported her net worth was upwards of a million dollars, held in the family trust. She had income of approximately $3,100 per month, but was not sure if the money would "show up in the mail." She did not know where her mail was, as it was being forwarded somewhere. She was also planning on liquidating and selling a few items to gain some income.

Kari made clear if she were not conserved, she would not apply for social security benefits, because she has no reason to: she is "happy and healthy with no diseases or illnesses, and I've always been able to make ends meet or, you know, do a lot better than that." She also testified she would not apply for social security even if she had no income and was in a "really desperate situation." She ...

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