We recently began a multi-part discussion on guardians and conservators by looking at some common questions. Today we want to expand on that discussion by taking a close look at the duties of a guardian or conservator. What does a guardian do on a daily basis? What duties can a conservator expect to perform? Let’s take a look.
Guardians, Conservators, and More: What does a guardian do?
Guardians protect the interests of the incapacitated ward because the ward is legally incapable of making his or her own decisions. While most people are familiar with guardians for children, wards can be of any age, and a guardian can be called upon to make choices on behalf of incapacitated adults.
If a court appoints a guardian for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease, the guardian will be responsible for making the ward’s medical decisions. As part of that responsibility, the guardian may have to talk to doctors or health care providers, weigh the available options, and make decisions that are in the ward’s best interest.
Guardians, Conservators, and More: What do conservators and guardians do and how do you prevent them from acting improperly?
Conservators, like guardians, have significant powers to control the incapacitated person’s (the ward’s) life. Conservators manage the estate of the incapacitated person, meaning they control the money, property, and financial interests.
The conservator of an incapacitated adult will be responsible for paying any bills, for safeguarding the ward’s assets and investments, and for ensuring estate property is only used to protect the ward’s interests.
When a court appoints a guardian or conservator, the person appointed is granted power to influence the life, health, and well-being of the ward. The law recognizes that these powers are necessary to protect the ward’s interests, but also that such powers can be damaging if used improperly. That’s why the appointment of a guardian or conservator comes with significant restraints.
When people interact with one another on a daily basis, they only have a duty to act in a reasonable manner, and not to behave negligently. In other words, as long as you’re not negligent you don’t typically face risk of a lawsuit.
This negligence standard does not apply to guardians or conservators, who are held to a higher standard. Because people who manage a ward’s affairs have greater legal powers than most, the law imposes a greater legal duty on them. A guardian or conservator must act with the best interests of the ward in mind, and cannot use his or her authority for just any purpose. If guardians or conservators act contrary to the interests of the ward, they face the possibility of civil and even criminal charges.