Understanding the Difference Between a Conservatorship and a Guardianship

When it comes to making financial, health, and other personal decisions in life, adults are typically going to be capable of handling it on their own. In the event that an adult is unable to make sound decisions, however, someone needs to be put in charge of making these types of decisions. Some adults are never able to make these decisions due to mental disabilities, and others become unable due to accident or illness. In either case, the legal roles to make these decisions are known as conservatorships and guardianships. While related, it is important to understand the difference between the two.

What is a Conservatorship

A conservatorship is a legal status that gives one (or more) person(s) the ability to manage the financial estate and affairs of another. This includes day to day activities like paying bills and managing checking or savings accounts, as well as more in-depth things like managing or making investments. Conservators can also collect debts on behalf of the individual they are providing this service for.

A conservator can be either a family member who has the necessary time and ability, or a financial services agency can be appointed the conservator. One of the most important things about conservators is that they are legally required to make decisions with the best interests of their ward in mind, and never make ‘self-serving’ decisions when acting in this role.

What is a Guardianship

A guardianship, on the other hand, is the legal relationship where one (or more) person(s) is granted the authority and responsibility to make more personal decisions on behalf of their ward. This would include making health-related choices such as what procedures to get, when to get them, and things of that nature. A guardian will also be responsible for making decisions related to living arrangements and overall safety. Depending on the ability of the person being cared for, guardians can allow the individual more or less influence on the decisions that are being made. As with a conservatorship, the guardian must always put the best interests of their ward first.

Becoming a Conservator or Guardian

Depending on the situation, one person can serve as both the conservator and the guardian of their ward. The courts will determine whether or not this is what is in the best interest of the individual who needs care. If you would like to become a conservator or a guardian, the first thing you will want to do is retain the services of a qualified family law attorney who can help you to navigate the legal steps in this process. If you have any questions about filling either of these roles, please don’t hesitate to contact Hulbert & Associates, LLC and speak with one of our skilled attorneys today.

Written by Lori Hulbert

Together the attorneys of the firm have nearly 30 years of experience in the fields of estate planning, estate and trust administration, estate and trust litigation, guardianships and conservatorships and civil litigation.