What are Guardians and Conservators?
As our loved ones get older, they sometimes lose the ability to take care of themselves, both in lifestyle and finances. In these cases, it might become necessary for the appointment of either a guardian or a conservator. Both of these can be scary on the surface, but they serve an important function if our loved ones are no longer able to carry on alone.
What is a guardian and what is a conservator?
In simple terms, a guardian is someone appointed by the probate court to make decisions on behalf of their charge, known as a ward, when it comes to their care. They are to make sure care is being given to their ward, and that they are comfortable. A guardian may be a spouse, family member, or another adult that the ward would deem suitable. If there is no one available, the court has the ability to appoint a professional guardian.
A ward or someone who has an interest in the welfare of the ward can request a replacement guardian by petitioning the Probate Court. If they feel it is in the ward’s best interests, the court can appoint another person to take over. If the ward feels they no longer need a guardian, they can also petition the court to remove the guardianship.
A conservator is someone who is appointed by the probate court to oversee a person’s finances and property. Like a guardian, a person may select their own conservator, have the same person designated as both a guardian and conservator and may replace them if they feel the conservator is not acting in their best interest. A conservator is restricted in how they can spend their ward’s money, as it must be used for care and support.
The conservator also cannot sell a house or any other property without court approval. They also must keep a record of how they are spending the money and must file these records with the court.
A guardian and/or a conservator may be helpful in managing a loved one's affairs, so they can maintain a high quality of life. It is a difficult conversation to have with those needing additional support, and, in the case of dementia, a guardian or conservator may be the only choice to get the support needed to manage a person’s affairs.
To learn more about guardians and conservators and which may be right for your situation, consult a lawyer on how best to proceed.