Know the Difference: What is Guardianship and Conservatorship?

While reaching a point where help is needed to conserve an estate or ensure an individual receives needed care, there are processes in place to protect individuals. Although most attention is given to seniors, individuals of any age may require protection. One question which often arises is the difference between Guardianship and Conservatorship. Eldercare legal experts from Life Care Planning Law Firms Association (ICPLFA) are available to work with clients finding themselves in need of assistance. So, What is Guardianship and Conservatorship?

What is a guardian, and how is one appointed?

Guardians are generally court appointed to make decisions for an individual deemed to be at risk. The extent of that decision-making authority will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but may include a limited amount of decision-making power or a very comprehensive power over the life activities of the person needing assistance, commonly referred to as the ward. Often, wards are capable of functioning in most areas but need assistance with making some decisions. The guardian may be responsible for making medical decisions or arrangements related to housing or business. As a rule, a relative or another concerned party will work with an attorney to acquire guardianship. When petitions are filed, proposed wards are entitled to a hearing and legal representation to protect their rights.

How does a conservatorship differ from a guardianship?

While a guardian has control over the ward's personal affairs, a conservator's role is to take care of an individual's financial affairs. The conservator has the power to pay bills, monitor and approve investments, as well as enter into contracts on the behalf of the individual, routinely referred to as the protected person. The court will oversee the actions of the conservator to guarantee the protected person's assets are properly managed.

Can guardianships and conservatorships be terminated?

The short answer is yes. In the event a protected individual's situation changes, the relationships can be altered or terminated as needed. Generally, the protected party's physician or social worker will be called to testify the party is no longer in need of protection and is capable of handling their own affairs. Eldercare legal experts routinely work with clients to ensure the protected parties' interests are protected.

ICPLFA members are dedicated to protecting the rights of anyone needing assistance to conserve assets or live life to its fullest. The association provides a wide variety of tools and programs to ensure ICPLFA members are prepared to meet the unique needs of seniors needing guardianship in their daily lives or a representative to conserve estate assets.