When Does a Person Need a Guardian or Conservator?

When a person is no longer able to make sound decisions for themself about their physical well-being or financial affairs, it may be necessary to establish a guardianship and/or conservatorship. If no advance directives, such as a power-of-attorney and a health care directive, have been executed prior to incapacity, a court proceeding to appoint a guardianship and/or conservatorship may be necessary. A person is incapacitated if they cannot pay their bills, do not know their investments, are easily swindled and/or vulnerable. A person will need a guardian if the person cannot make medical decisions, eat properly, or care for their personal needs. Often, the opinion of a doctor is part of the legal proceeding.

What is the Difference Between a Guardianship and a Conservatorship?

A guardian makes decisions about the health care and general well-being of the protected person, including medical treatment. A guardian can also apply for medical assistance for the protected person.

A conservator makes decisions about the financial matters of the protected person, including bank accounts, investments, and day-to-day issues such as paying bills.

One way to avoid having a guardianship or conservatorship is to create legal documents such as health care directives and powers of attorney. With these documents in place, there is no need for a guardianship and conservatorship of a person.