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Guardianship vs. Conservatorship

Older person riding a bike.

As our loved ones age, we want what is best for them. That’s why sometimes appointing a guardianship or conservatorship is an essential step in their care-taking process. If they can no longer make decisions for themselves, it might be time for an outside party to assist in the process. Family members can decide to start this process themselves, or an outside individual can assert that guardianship or conservatorship is needed.

Regardless of how this process begins, Bush & Taylor, P.C. understands that your family members deserve the best care possible. That’s why we want to explain the differences between guardianships and conservatorships, as well as what they can do for your family.


When a person can no longer care for themselves, the courts will often appoint a guardian. Legal guardians are responsible for making a wide range of decisions for the incapacitated person they are looking after. This includes essential medical and life-care decisions. Guardianship involves the person being there for critical day-to-day choices in the incapacitated person’s life, ensuring that they receive the best care. The guardian must do the following:

  • Visit the incapacitated person so they know their specific needs
  • Help the incapacitated person take part in decisions
  • File routine reports with local Social Services to ensure that they are receiving proper care


Conservators typically have less direct involvement in the day-to-day care of the incapacitated person. Instead, they are primarily there to take care of the financial affairs. If your loved one has a large estate, business, or other assets to monitor, a conservatorship could assist significantly in the process. However, conservators do not necessarily make the crucial care-taking decisions a guardian would. Conservators must do the following:

  • Take care of incapacitated persons’ assets and income
  • File annual account paperwork

Who Needs Them?

Guardianships and conservatorships are both court-ordered. This means that a judge has to agree that the incapacitated person needs an additional party to maintain their care, whether financial or physical. Typically, family members request them when they acknowledge that they alone cannot care for their loved ones. However, the courts must recognize that the family member cannot care for their affairs themselves. Common reasons include:

  • Aging relatives experiencing Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • A family member has a severe illness or injury
  • A child with special needs has reached 18

Out of these reasons, the most common for requesting guardianship or conservatorship is a cognitive decline or dementia.

What’s Best for Your Family

Both guardianship and conservatorship will require legal action to appoint. However, you should consider what is best for your family member before deciding. For example, not everyone who is incapacitated necessarily needs assistance in their day-to-day life. In this case, families may decide that a conservator for finances is the best route. Sometimes both a conservator and guardian are needed in a situation. If that’s the case, the courts will occasionally appoint the same person as both.

Other Options

Going through court proceedings is not ideal for every family. There are ways to avoid appointing a guardian or conservator through the courts; however, it involves planning ahead of time. If your loved one can sign for a power of attorney, their finances and other care can be organized ahead of time. Furthermore, you can also create a life care plan with the assistance of an attorney. Doing this means that your loved one has a sense of control over their care and estate, rather than just having a court-appointed official.

Rely on Bush & Taylor, P.C. for Assistance

Obtaining guardianship or conservatorship for a loved one is a complex process. Bush & Taylor, P.C. can provide you with guidance throughout the process, ensuring that your family members are well taken care of.

Reach our office today at (757) 926-0078 to schedule an appointment for a consultation.