Guardianships and conservatorships are not the same, so it’s important to understand the kind of arrangement you’re setting up when you create your estate plan. If an adult becomes incapacitated, they may need a conservatorship or guardianship, depending on the situation.
In both cases of guardianships and conservatorships, a person will be appointed to take care of the adult’s affairs, whether health-related, personal or financial.
Understanding a guardianship
Guardianships and conservatorships aren’t the same. To start with, a guardianship is a legal relationship that allows one or more people to make decisions for someone who no longer has the mental capacity to do so. The guardian is normally established to take care of both personal and health-related decisions for the person who is incapacitated.
A guardian may make decisions about the other person’s safety, living arrangements and medical treatment, for example.
The differences with a conservatorship
With a conservatorship, the difference is that one or more people are given the ability to make financial decisions for the incapacitated person. The conservator will be in charge of the person’s financial accounts, such as their bank accounts or investment accounts. They will also need to manage cash flow and take care of bills and debts.
Can you decide who will be your conservator or guardian?
Yes, you can set up a conservatorship or guardianship in your living will. You can also set up a durable power of attorney or a health care power of attorney so that you know that someone you trust will take over that role if you cannot handle your personal affairs or take care of yourself.
If that person does not want to take on the role, the court may appoint a different person to take over your care as a guardian or conservator. The court may also appoint someone different if it doesn’t feel that the person or people you selected have the background or ability to take over the role. This is something to discuss when you’re setting up a conservatorship or guardianship so that you have a backup choice in the case that one person cannot fulfill the role.