Sometimes people need assistance taking care of their physical needs or paying their bills. In Arizona, as in many states, guardianships or conservatorships can be put in place to assist those in need. But what is the difference between the guardianships and conservatorship? How will you know which one is the right thing to do?
When someone can’t take care of himself or herself any more, a court may appoint a guardian. The person who needs help is called a ward and can be an incapacitated adult or a minor. Typically, a guardian is someone qualified to serve or a private entity licensed to act on behalf of someone in need. A guardian’s duties vary from person to person, but may including making “personal decisions for the ward relating to living arrangements, education, social activities, and authorization or withholding of medical or other professional care, treatment, or advice.”
When someone can no longer make rational financial decisions, a conservator may be appointed. In the case of a conservatorship, the person who needs help is called a protected person. Someone who petitions to be a conservator must pass background checks and provide any other information required by the court. A conservator handles the protected person’s finances, maintains detailed records, and provides a report to the court periodically.
Guardianship vs. Conservatorship
It’s possible that someone may need both a guardian and a conservator. In fact, one person or entity may serve as both.
What determines whether to use a guardianship, a conservatorship, or both? If the ward only requires assistance with health care and making decision on living arrangements, he or she may just need a guardian. If the ward is making day-to-day personal decisions just fine, but is squandering financial resources, the court will appoint a conservator.
One celebrity who needed a conservatorship is Britney Spears. As her life seemed to spiral out of control, her father stepped in and petitioned the court for a conservatorship. Doing so protected her future by safeguarding her assets from her irresponsible behavior. Without the conservatorship, she may have ended up penniless.
Estate Planning vs. Guardianship/Conservatorship
Adults who signed a Health Care Power of Attorney, Mental Health Care Power of Attorney, and Living Will as part of their life care plan are not likely to need a guardianship or conservatorship. By signing these important estate planning documents, you can appoint someone you trust to handle your personal or financial affairs if necessary.
If you have any questions about your life care plans, please attend one of our free seminars. You can also call us at (480) 418-8448. We assist clients throughout Arizona, including communities like Sun Lakes, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, and Tempe.