A conservatorship is a legal proceeding in which an adult (the conservator) is appointed by a judge to manage the affairs of and to care for another adult (the conservatee) whom the judge determines is unable to perform these tasks for themselves.
There are several situations in which the need for a conservatorship may arise. When friends or family members become incapacitated by illness, accident, or advancing age, it may be appropriate to petition the court to appoint a conservator, who will then become responsible for taking charge of their medical and/or financial affairs. Many conservatees are elderly people, who may be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Other conservatees may be younger, with temporary or permanent mental or physical disabilities.
There are two types of conservatorships:
1. Conservatorship of the Person
2. Conservatorship of the Estate
Conservators of the Person ensure that the conservatee is properly fed, clothed, and housed, while Conservators of the Estate are responsible for managing the conservatee’s money and other property. It is possible for a single person to be the conservator of both a person and their estate.
A General Conservatorship is the type of conservatorship typically used for either older people who may have significant limitations due to aging, or for younger people who may have suffered serious impairment from an accident.
A Temporary Conservatorship is set up when someone needs immediate help, such that it would be harmful to wait until the conclusion of the conservatorship proceeding to appoint a conservator. The judge appoints a temporary conservator for a specific period of time until a permanent conservator can be appointed. These can apply to both conservatorships of the person and estate.
A Limited Conservatorship is typically set up for adults with developmental disabilities who cannot fully care for themselves, yet at the same time do not require the degree of care provided under a general conservatorship.
A probate guardianship is a court proceeding in which a judge gives someone who is not the parent custody of the child (called a "Guardianship of the Person") or the power to manage the child’s property (called a "Guardianship of the Estate.")
The need for a probate guardianship can arise in a number of different circumstances. Children may need legal guardians because their parents have died, abandoned them, or are otherwise unable to care for them. There are many situations when it might be better for a child under the age of 18 to live with someone other than his or her parents. For example, a guardianship may be appropriate if one or both parents are experiencing any one of the following: a long physical illness, an overseas military transfer, enrollment in a treatment or rehabilitation program, problems with substance abuse, issues with anger management, or imminent incarceration.
The Guardian of the Person has the authority to make all of the decisions for the young child that a parent would normally make. The guardian assumes certain duties and obligations regarding the child's care and control.
The Guardian of the Estate is responsible for managing the child’s money, making smart investments, and carefully managing the child’s property. Occasionally a guardianship of the estate is required when a minor child receives large sums of money, such as insurance proceeds or an inheritance. In this case, a parent may be appointed as guardian of a minor child’s estate until the child reaches eighteen years of age.