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What Are The Differences Between Guardianships & Conservatorships?
If your loved one can no longer make their own decisions or handle financial matters, you may need to consider a guardianship or conservatorship. Learn more about the differences here.
What Are the Differences Between Guardianships & Conservatorships?
Home » FAQs » What Are the Differences Between Guardianships & Conservatorships?
There is one big difference between guardianships and conservatorships. A legal guardian can make a wide range of personal and medical decisions for the person in their care while a conservatorship generally grants much more limited decision-making powers. A conservator usually only has the authority to pay bills, make investments, and handle other financial matters.
At Bratton Estate and Elder Care Attorneys, we can help you determine your needs and navigate the process. Call us today at 856-857-6007 to get started.
Who Needs a Guardian or Conservator?
Both guardianships and conservatorships are court-ordered. Family members generally request them when their loved one can no longer make their own decisions, and someone else needs legal authority to act on their behalf. Depending on your loved one’s needs, you may decide to establish a conservatorship or a guardianship.
There are several reasons why this type of legal action might be necessary. This includes:
Your aging loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
Your family member has a serious illness or injury and cannot manage their affairs
You have a child with special needs who is now age 18
Cognitive decline and dementia are two of the top reasons family members seek control of their aging loved one’s financial accounts, medical care, and/or personal affairs.
For example, imagine your grandmother lives alone and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The power company shut off her electricity because she forgot to pay her power bill. She is still capable of making many decisions and would like to remain on her own but needs help with financial matters. In this case, we could help you establish a conservatorship or limited guardianship and talk about other options related to her future care as her disease progresses.
For a legal consultation, call 856-857-6007
Understanding Guardianships and Conservatorships
Some people only need help managing their finances while others need assistance with everyday activities and personal care. This is a key consideration when discussing a guardianship or conservatorship. Our team — elder law attorneys, social workers, and a registered nurse — can help you weigh the facts of your loved one’s situation and determine the right plan of action.
Naming a guardian or conservator both require legal action, and both are accountable to the court. Often, the same person handles both roles although this is not always the case.
You Can Avoid This Legal Action with Proper Planning
With the right planning, we can often help families avoid the headache of having the court appoint a guardian or conservator. Not only does this require you to go to court, you then also have the court judging each decision you make.
However, if your loved one signed a durable financial power of attorney before they became incapacitated, you would not need to worry about setting up a conservatorship. If you are looking for peace of mind about your financial future and want to take the pressure off your family, we can help you create the necessary powers of attorney.
We can also discuss your other needs and put a personalized Life Care Plan in place for today and the future.
Let Our Team Help You Take Care of Your Loved One
Getting guardianship or conservatorship is not something the courts take lightly, and they make the process incredibly complex. We will meet with your family to gain a good understanding of your needs, then guide you through the process step by step. We can simplify this complicated process for you, serving as compassionate advocates who fight for your loved one’s best interests.
We understand how New Jersey’s guardianship and conservatorship laws work and can walk you through your options based on your family’s needs. We will discuss with you the pros and cons and take action to protect your loved one’s future.
If you have questions about elder law, Life Care Planning, Medicaid planning, or other related topics, we will be happy to discuss with you our full menu of services available and which ones might be pertinent to your situation.
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Call a New Jersey Estate and Elder Care Attorney Today
The best way to learn more about the differences between guardianships and conservatorships is to reach out to a New Jersey elder care lawyer today.
At Bratton Estate and Elder Care Attorneys, our interdisciplinary approach means we take the time to get to know you and understand your needs before we put a plan in place. Our social workers and registered nurse on staff set us apart from other firms who take a one-size-fits-all approach.
Call us at 856-857-6007 to get started today.
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Guardianships And Conservatorships
Conservatorship vs. Guardianship
Is a conservatorship or a guardianship right for your situation? Find out how the two terms differ and what each entails.
Conservatorship vs. Guardianship
Is a conservatorship or a guardianship right for your situation? Find out how the two terms differ and what each entails.
by Belle Wong, J.D.
updated May 02, 2022 · 3min read
When it comes to the intricacies of substitute decision-making, there is often confusion surrounding the terms "conservatorship" and "guardianship." Much of this confusion lies in the fact that there isn't any one standard legal definition for either term, and the terms that apply to your specific situation will depend on the laws of the state of residency of your ward, or person to whom the conservatorship or guardianship applies.
Difference Between Conservatorship and Guardianship
In many states, a guardianship gives a person control over the personal, day-to-day decisions of a ward, while a conservatorship provides the authority to control another person's financial decisions. However, in some states, guardianship is the term used when the ward in question is a minor, while conservatorship applies to the care of an incompetent or incapacitated adult.
Related: The Basics of Conservatorship
To best determine which term applies to your situation, you should look into how your state defines and applies both of these terms. Regardless of the definition, most states require an application or petition to the state courts to obtain the legal authority associated with conservatorship or guardianship. The actual steps of the process differ by state, so be sure to research what information you need to file as well as the filing and court dates you need to track .
Some states recognize the concept of a limited conservatorship, in which the court appoints a conservator the responsibility of caring for a conservatee, or an adult with developmental disabilities who is unable to take care of themselves either personally or financially.
There are usually two types of limited conservatorship available:Limited conservatorship of the person. The conservator is responsible for taking care of the personal needs of the conservatee.Limited conservatorship of the estate. The conservator is responsible for taking care of the financial needs of the conservatee.
While one person might take on the responsibilities of both types of limited conservatorship, it's also not unusual to have one person appointed the conservator of the person while another is given responsibility as conservator of the estate.
While states often define the term guardianship differently, within the context of estate planning purposes, legal guardianship generally refers to designating a person in a will to have legal responsibility for the child or children of the person who made the will, in the event of the death of both parents. If you do not designate a legal guardian in your will before you pass, the court will decide what happens to your children.
In addition to selecting a person you feel will take proper care of your children if anything happens to you, it's also important to discuss your decision with the person you've chosen. Becoming a legal guardian comes with a lot of responsibilities, so you want to be sure the person you designate is willing to take on the role.
In some cases, parents may find themselves in need of a temporary guardian for their children. For example, if you and your spouse or partner will be out of the country for an extended period of time, it's prudent to appoint a temporary guardian to take care of your children's needs, both personal and financial, while you are away.
Application can be made to the courts to appoint a temporary guardian, but depending on the jurisdiction in which you reside, you may also be able to appoint a temporary guardian on your own by using a letter of guardianship. If you decide to do so, care should be taken in drafting the document so that it's clear exactly what authority and responsibilities the temporary guardian will have.
Regardless of whether the temporary guardian is appointed by the court or through some other means, temporary guardianships generally have a set time period during which legal responsibility over the child or children is granted. Once this time period is up, the temporary guardianship comes to an end.
Both conservatorships and guardianships are important concepts that should be addressed during the estate planning process. Because state laws vary in the way they deal with these terms, it is important to properly research the requirements of the state in which you reside and learn what term is applicable to your particular scenario.
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About the AuthorBelle Wong, J.D.
Belle Wong, J.D., is a freelance writer specializing in small business, personal finance, and marketing topics. Connect …
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"Conservatorship" vs. "Guardianship" – What’s The Difference?
The news have been abuzz with the terms "conservatorship" and "guardianship." Learn the difference between the two so you don't get lost in the legal lingo.
“Conservatorship” vs. “Guardianship”: What’s The Difference?
Published November 23, 2021
The widespread attention on the conservatorship case involving pop star Britney Spears has a lot of people who aren’t lawyers wondering: What is a conservatorship? What does it entail? And how is a conservatorship different from guardianship?
It’s difficult to provide a short answer. That’s because, in the US, conservatorships and guardianships are both governed by state law, and the specific definition varies from state to state. In some cases, the terms are used much in the same way.
In this article, we’ll provide simple, general definitions of conservatorship and guardianship, explain how they often differ, and discuss the ways they can overlap—as well as examine the difference between conservatorship and power of attorney.Note: None of what you read here should be considered legal advice. Always consult a lawyer before getting involved in a conservatorship or guardianship—or any other legal arrangement.
⚡ Quick summary
In many states, a conservatorship involves a person (the conservator) being legally in charge of making financial (and sometimes also personal) decisions on behalf of someone else. Guardianship, on the other hand, usually involves a person (the guardian) being legally in charge of making personal (but sometimes also financial) decisions on behalf of someone else. Conservatorships most often apply to adults, while guardianship most commonly applies to minors. However, the specifics of such legal agreements are determined by state law and vary widely from state to state.
What is a conservatorship?
In the context of law, a conservatorship is “an agreement or order under which one person or entity controls the personal and financial affairs of another, such as a minor or someone who is considered legally incapable of managing their own affairs.”
In a conservatorship, the person controlling the personal and financial affairs of another is called a conservator. The conservator may be in charge of things like paying bills, taking out loans, or purchasing real estate—all on behalf of the person whom the conservatorship applies to (sometimes called the conservatee). In such an arrangement, the conservatee does not have the legal ability to make these decisions themselves. Which decisions or actions the conservator is legally allowed to make depends on state law and the specifics of the conservatorship agreement. In some cases, a conservator is only able to make decisions regarding the conservatee’s estate.
When it comes to laws and rules, do you use evoke or invoke? Learn the difference here.
A conservatorship must be approved by a state court via a petition from the potential conservator. In many cases, a conservatorship is only granted if the state determines the conservatee to be “incapapacitated” or “incompotent” (in the legal senses of the words—due to a mental condition, for example). For this reason, the consent of the conservatee is not required—under the understanding that they cannot give consent, in a legal sense, due to such incapacitation or incompetence. However, a conservatee can petition the court to end the conservatorship.
In practice, conservatorships are usually pursued by family members of a person who has a serious disorder or has some major impediment to making their own legal decisions, such as being in prison.
In the case of Britney Spears, her father and lawyer were granted temporary and then permanent conservatorship over her assets after she was placed under temporary psychiatric care in 2008. As part of the agreement, the court also gave Spears’s father legal power to make personal decisions on behalf of Spears as well. While many conservatorships are not so controversial, the practice has faced criticism, particularly because of the potential of conservators to take advantage of conservatees and the difficulty that conservatees can have trying to end the conservatorship.
What is a guardianship?
In a legal context, a guardianship (sometimes called a legal guardianship) is a relationship in which one person (called the guardian) can legally make decisions, usually personal but sometimes also financial, on behalf of another person (often called the ward).
In such an arrangement, the guardian is defined as “a person who is entrusted by law with the care of the person or property, or both, of another, as a minor or someone legally incapable of managing their own affairs.”
Like conservatorships, guardianships must be approved by a state court, do not require the ward’s consent, and involve the ward losing the ability to make their own legal decisions.
Personal decisions that can be made by a guardian involve things such as healthcare, housing, and education.
Many guardianship agreements involve children (minors) whose parents have died, are in prison, or have serious medical disorders. In cases involving adults, guardianships are usually granted to family members or others who seek to care for a person who has a severe mental condition or other disability that prohibits them from making their own personal decisions—often specifically those involving medical care.