The layperson can sometimes become confused about the differences regarding guardianship and conservatorship. If you need to make decisions about adult guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, it is really important that you understand what each one means and how the law is applied in the state where the proceedings will be held. It is also useful to take note that adult guardianship and conservatorship recommendations differ greatly from those relating to minors and individuals suffering from development disabilities.
A guardian is given the responsibility to make decisions on behalf of a person who is judged by the state courts to be incapacitated. Incapacitation can occur through mental illness, physical illness or disability or mental incompetence resulting in the person in question being no longer capable of being able to make and communicate logical and informed decisions.
This incapacity that can lead to a guardian being appointed, and it should be noted that incapacitation can also be caused by extreme use of drugs or alcohol. Once the guardianship is granted, the guardian will be responsible for care arrangements and decisions about medical treatment as well as the placement of the individual.
A conservator takes care of the finances of the incapacitated individual. The conservator is appointed once the candidate has satisfied the responsible court authorities that he or she is capable of looking after the individual’s finances for a period of time that could be short term (if the incapacity is expected to be temporary) or over a longer term for conditions such as dementia.
The conservator is expected to keep records of all income and expenses on a detailed basis and be able to present these accounts at the end of each year for inspection by the interested parties. In certain cases, the conservator will be required to post a bond to act as security for the funds the conservator will be handling.