Questions about guardians, conservators, and similar issues commonly arise in a number of estate planning situations. Whenever someone is legally unable to make at least some decisions, a court can appoint a guardian, conservator, or both. Today we start a multi-part series on guardians, conservators, and the issues that surround them so you can have a better understanding of these important issues. Though the terminology surrounding these issues, and some of the particular details, will differ slightly depending on whether you live in Kansas, Missouri, or Oklahoma, the issues are largely identical regardless of what state you’re in.
Guardians, Conservators, and More. What is a guardian?
A guardian is a person, or sometimes a corporation, who has the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of someone else, known as a ward. A ward is someone who is legally incapable of making decisions on his or her own. Because of this inability, the guardian makes decisions for the ward, and does so in order to protect the ward’s best interests.
More specifically, a guardian makes personal decisions on behalf of the ward, such as choices about day-to-day life, where to live, the kinds of health care to receive, etc.
Guardians, Conservators, and More. What is a conservator?
A conservator is similar to a guardian in that the conservator is responsible for making decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person, in this case known as a conservatoree. Unlike a guardian, however, a conservator is only responsible for making financial decisions for the incapacitated consrvatoree. These involve decisions about business affairs, assets, bills, etc.
In some situations a single person or organization can serve as both a guardian and a conservatore.
Guardians, Conservators, and More. Who needs a guardian or conservator?
Anyone who is legally incapacitated or otherwise unable to make decisions on his or her behalf is in need of a guardian, a conservator, or both. Children under the age of 18 are most commonly in need of a guardian or conservator when their parents die or become unable to make choices on the child’s behalf. Adults can also require others to make decisions for them if they lose capacity, such as a result of a disease or serious illnesses or injuries.
Guardians, Conservators, and More. How do you become a guardian or conservator?
You can only become a guardian or conservator by asking a court to name you as such. A court will have to hold a hearing, determine whether the person at issue is incapacitated, and determine what is in that person’s best interests. If the court decides that an incapacitated person needs a guardian or conservator, it will choose who it believes will best serve in the roll.