Conservatorship” and “guardianship” are legal terms that courts use interchangeably, depending upon the state you live in. However, these technical differences cause significant confusion for concerned parties, who desire to help their children and family members. It is impossible, for example, to know what specific service you need for your incapacitated grandfather or irresponsible child when formal codes and regulations introduce unnecessary difficulty.

While each state’s laws differ in their approach to conservatorships and guardianships, some distinct differences between the two will help you understand what they are. That way, you do not have to make a blind decision for your loved ones that affect the estate planning process and their current well-being. It is vital to know whether your situation calls for a guardian or conservator, so your family member and their legacy does not have to suffer.

What are the differences between conservatorships and guardianships?

Across most legal circles in the United States, they agree on key components that separate conservatorships from guardianships and vice versus. A conservatorship, first, is a court-ordered intervention in a conservatee’s life because they are incapable of executing decisions. They can also struggle with balancing their finances, managing estates, or thinking coherently due to a mental illness or developmental disabilities. In these situations, the court appoints a conservator to handle these and other personal affairs, meeting their unique needs based on their circumstance.

Guardianships, on the other hand, refer to minors that receive a new legal guardian after their parent or active guardian cannot care for them. The authority figure’s death, absence, or abuse are viable reasons for the court to place the child under more caring guardianship, ensuring a responsible adult meets their physical and financial needs. To clarify, this type of legal intervention associates with minors rather than adults, who have constitutional rights to make decisions on their own, unless you can prove otherwise for their protection and safety.

In both scenarios, your loved one, whether a child, injured family member, etc will need additional assistance, which conservatorships and guardianships can provide.

Limited Conservatorships

Legal discussions separate conservatorships into two categories, which help you distinguish what specific assistance your friend or family member needs: person and estate. When a conservator gains the power to decide the living arrangements and regular provisions of a conservatee, they operate within a limited conservatorship of a person. In addition, the courthouse gives them legal authority to make health care, personal care, and housing decisions, such as placing the conservatee into a nursing home. These specifics, when courthouses apply them, vary from state to state.

Limited conservatorships of estates promote conservators to control the conservatee’s financial affairs and assets, in contrast. Often, they will correct any mismanagement of their estates and living trusts and run them in the conservatee’s best interests, preventing them from bringing detriment to their and their family’s legacy.

Real Life Conservatorship Example

For Jerry, he always knew Altzheimer’s Disease ran down his family tree and was not surprised when the doctor diagnosed his elderly father, John, with it. He was heartbroken to watch as his brilliant engineer of a dad deteriorated over time, progressively losing control of his judgment and critical thinking. The last straw came when John called Jerry to tell him that the electric company had turned off his lights because he had forgotten to pay his bill.

Jerry, desiring to protect his father from future incidents, decided to petition his local courthouse a conservator to aid his dad in daily decision making. After the court investigator evaluated John, he approved Jerry’s request and provided a professional conservator that would support his father.

Real Life Guardianship Example

In order to secure a crucial business deal for their join-corporate company, Sandra and Kenny knew they would be away from their children for at least six months. They would have to fill their days with board meetings, afternoon coffees, and conferences that they foresaw would take most of their attention away from their kids. Both Sandra and Kenny, for their family’s sake and future business success, believed it was in their children’s best interests to place them under temporary authority and appoint a guardian.

The couple set up a consultation with an experienced attorney to discuss their options and discovered that a temporary guardianship was exactly what they were searching for. After going through the local courthouse and signing paperwork, the judge approved their choice of guardian, who would love, care, and provide for their children while they left the United States.

Lawyers that Understand Conservatorships and Guardianships

Both conservatorships and guardianships contain technical terminology across different states that causes you additional confusion. When you have a loved one suffering, whether as an incapacitated family member or abused child, it is challenging to locate the exact legal help they need. However, the information in this article and real-life examples will help you assess your situation and evaluate whether you need to petition for a conservatorship or guardianship.

No matter which one your loved one needs, both require you to consult with an experienced law attorney since they require a judge’s signature and approval in court to work with the person appointed. Our team of estate planning attorneys would be honored to educate you more on the differences between conservatorships and guardianships. Then, we can hear your specific case details and give you legal advice that will help protect your family legacy.

You can reach our office by calling (800)-840-1998 or setting up a free consultation on our website so we can answer your questions about conservatorships vs. guardianships.