Conservatorship vs Guardianship

by | May 17, 2022 | estate planning

While the duties of a guardian and a conservator can sometimes overlap, the two roles are vastly different. The complexities of this topic can vary greatly and may depend on individual circumstances. The basic understanding of the two concepts are outlined below. Speaking with a dedicated legal professional can help to provide you with greater insight on your road to finding resolution. 

What is a Guardianship? 

Guardians are court-appointed to help protect individuals that are unable to care for themselves on their own. Typically, guardianships are appointed by a court in cases involving minors. But, these situations could also be due to infancy, incapacity, or a disability. Guardians are then able to have the authority to make legal decisions for their ward. They will also be able to represent their ward in different situations regarding their ward’s best interests. In general, guardians are appointed to manage areas of a ward’s life. However, this does not include the overseeing and management of their finances. There are different types of guardianships that a court may appoint, depending on the unique situation. 

The Person

With this type of guardianship, the guardian is considered responsible for the complete care and wellbeing of the protected person. Decisions that the guardian will be able to make include financial, educational, and medical decisions. 

The Estate

The guardian will be permitted to make all financial decisions regarding the ward’s finances and personal assets. This generally happens after court approval. The protected person’s money will sit in a blocked account, which means the finances cannot be obtained without a court order. 

Primary Responsibilities of a Guardian

The overall primary duties of a guardian generally include overseeing that their ward’s welfare and safety needs are met, while it may also include attending to some of their minor financial needs. They have a legal responsibility to act in their ward’s best interests. These responsibilities can include finding quality education or helping to secure additional educational resources if needed and helping secure medical care. Responsibilities are mostly related to a ward’s personal care needs. 

A guardianship may be beneficial for your particular situation if: 

  • The protected person is a child that has no parents or other relatives that can be a daily caretaker. 
  • The protected person has medical needs or educational requirements that are not being taken care of currently. 
  • The protected person is an adult that cannot physically or mentally care for themselves, including their basic needs.

What is a Conservatorship?

While a guardian may be appointed by a court to take care of a person’s wellbeing and interests, a conservatorship generally revolves around financial aspects of a ward’s life. This court-appointed conservator will manage various financial affairs, including bank accounts, investments, and assets.

Who Might Need a Conservator?

A conservator may be appointed in many different instances. They are appointed if it is deemed necessary to protect someone who is not able to make sound financial decisions for themself. A conservator may be appointed if someone has been deemed incapacitated due to:

  • Alzheimer’s disease 
  • Dementia
  • Coma
  • Mental illness

Primary Responsibilities of a Conservator

The primary role that a conservator plays is that the conservator will have legal authority over parts of a protected person’s life. This is usually relating to that person’s assets, finances, and investments. Just like a guardian, the conservator is legally bound to act in the ward’s best interest. They will need to show documentation annually that discloses how the protected person’s finances are being managed. The conservator will also need to consult the court in order to be allowed to access funds for that individual.

Types of Conservatorships

There are different types of conservatorships to assist with covering a broad range of unique situations. Each type of conservatorship is designed to help meet the needs of the protected person. There are also different durations that could be applied to each type of conservatorship, with some being short-term or temporary and some being permanent. 


The conservator has authority over finances. This means that the protected individual will not be able to have access to their funds or investments on their own. The conservator will be able to grant them access, typically by signing off. 


The conservator has a say in how the protected individual is living their life, including housing and medical care. The conservator could have the protected person move to a different town or move them into an assisted living facility, as well as choose when they receive health services. 


This gives the conservator full authority over the protected individual, including their finances, health, and physical autonomy. The conservator can make any and all significant decisions for the protected individual. 


For this type of conservatorship, the conservator will be limited to only having certain powers. These powers will be determined by how adept the ward is at managing certain aspects of their finances, as the conservator may only then be overseeing one specific area. 

A conservatorship may be beneficial for your particular situation if:

  • The protected person has been considered legally incompetent to make financial decisions. 
  • The protected person has inherited a large sum of money and may struggle with financial management on their own. 

Related Content: Three Reasons Why You May Need to Establish Conservatorship

What are The Main Differences Between Conservatorship & Guardianship?

The differences between the two can be quite confusing, as there is sometimes some overlap. However, the two focus on different aspects of a protected individual’s life. Conservatorship focuses on adults over the age of 18 that may be elderly, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to make sound financial decisions. Guardianship is primarily in relation to minors and focuses on health-related issues and personal needs of that individual. 

Contact an Attorney for Professional Legal Advice 

Decisions surrounding conservatorships and guardianships can become overwhelming quickly, as they can be riddled with complicated processes and terminology. Consulting with a professional attorney at Galanti & Copenhaver, Inc. can provide you with individualized insight into your specific circumstances. Our dedicated team has the experience necessary to navigate these often complex processes. Call today to schedule your initial consultation. 

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