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How do guardians and conservators differ?

When an adult is unable to take care of his or her own affairs, the court may appoint a representative to do so. These people are referred to as guardians or conservators, and they are responsible for making essential decisions on behalf of their wards. The Balance explains some of the key differences between the two roles, as well as their essential duties.

Conservators deal with financial issues

When a person is incapacitated by illness or injury handling financial affairs can be all but impossible. In this case, a conservator will step in to manage assets and property on behalf of the ward. Duties include investing money, making sure monthly bills are paid, managing debt, selling or holding real estate, and filing annual tax returns. How much power a conservator has depends on the laws of the state. In some cases, the person will need to gain approval from the court to make certain decisions.

Guardians see to personal care

On the other hand, an incapacitated person may also be unable to handle everyday tasks and chores. If so, a guardian must find suitable accommodations, whether that requires home care or placement in a nursing home or other type of facility. They must also make sure their ward receives appropriate medical care, as well as make decisions on the best course of action for the person in terms of the treatments he or she receives. Much like conservatorship, a guardian might also need court approval some decisions depending on the laws of the state.

Both representatives must report to the court

Most courts ask for annual accounting on a ward’s physical and financial health. This is to ensure the person is being cared for properly and that the personal representative is up to the task. When it comes to finances, the court will ask for a report on how money was spent, what investments were made, and whether any assets were sold or changed hands. From a health perspective, the court will also want to see the ward’s current state of health according to his or her doctor. The court will also want to know what medical treatments were sought in the previous year, and what treatments are slated for the upcoming one. 

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