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What distinguishes guardianships from conservatorships?

On Behalf of | Sep 25, 2023 | Estate Planning

In legal matters and the protection of vulnerable individuals, two terms often emerge: guardianships and conservatorships. While they may seem similar at first glance, they serve distinct purposes.

Below are the differences between guardianships and conservatorships, zeroing in on the crucial nuances that set them apart.

Understanding the basics

Guardianships are legal arrangements established to help protect individuals who are unable to make informed decisions for themselves. These individuals, referred to as wards, are typically minors or adults with incapacitating disabilities. The primary role of a guardian is to make decisions regarding the ward’s personal welfare, including healthcare, education and living arrangements.

Conservatorships, on the other hand, are legal arrangements designed to manage the financial affairs and property of an individual who is unable to do so independently. The person under conservatorship is known as the conservatee, and a conservator oversees their financial interests and assets.

Key distinctions

In guardianship, the guardian holds decision-making authority over personal matters, such as medical treatment, education and living arrangements. In contrast, conservatorships primarily deal with financial decisions, including managing assets, paying bills and making investments.

Additionally, guardianships are typically applied when individuals cannot make informed decisions about their welfare due to factors like age, disability or incapacity. Conservatorships, on the other hand, are invoked when someone cannot manage their financial affairs competently.

Furthermore, guardianships can be temporary or permanent, depending on the ward’s circumstances. Temporary guardianships are often established for specific situations, such as a medical emergency. In contrast, conservatorships are typically long-term and remain in place until the conservatee can demonstrate their ability to manage their finances independently.

Understanding these differences is essential for anyone navigating the complex legal landscape of guardianship and conservatorship. Remember to consult a legal professional when setting up either arrangement to help ensure it’s comprehensive.