What Is the Difference Between Conservatorship and Guardianship?

By Markets Fool.com

Generally, adults are capable of making their own financial and health-related decisions, but if an adult becomes incapable of making sound decisions, be it due to a physical ailment or mental illness, someone else will need to be in charge of making those decisions instead. This is where conservatorships and guardianships come into play. In both a conservatorship and guardianship, a court will appoint a substitute decision-maker for an individual who does not have the capacity to manage his or her own affairs. While guardianships are designed to assist with personal and health-related needs, conservatorships are designed to assist with financial needs.

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Guardianship
A guardianship is a legal relationship that gives one or more individuals the authority to make personal and health-related decisions on behalf of someone who has been deemed incapacitated or incompetent by a court. A guardian will typically make decisions about another person's medical treatment, safety, and living arrangements.

Conservatorship
While a guardianship gives one or more people the authority to make health-related decisions for another person, a conservatorship is a legal relationship that gives one or more individuals the authority to make financial decisions on behalf of an incompetent or incapacitated person. A conservator will typically manage another person's bank accounts, investments, and other such assets. A conservator will also manage that person's finances by paying bills, collecting debts, and managing cash flow in and out of his or her estate.

Appointing a guardian or conservator
It is possible for a person to have a say as to who will serve as his or her guardian and/or conservator. If a person already has a guardian or conservator designated in a living will, durable power of attorney, or medical power of attorney, that person will typically be appointed by a court provided that he or she has the ability and background to perform the necessary duties that such a role might entail. It is also possible to have the same person serve as both a guardian and conservator. However, a court may choose to appoint different people to fill these two distinct roles if it determines that doing so will best serve the interests of the individual in need. It's also possible for a person to have more than one guardian or conservator. If a co-conservatorship or co-guardianship exists, both parties will typically have equal say in whatever decisions need to be made.

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