conservator is a person appointed by the probate court to manage the assets of another person.  A guardian is a person appointed by the probate court to protect the legal rights of another person.  The best way to remember the difference between a guardian or conservator is to look at the beginning of each word.  Guardian- to guard over and protect an individual.  Conservator-to conserve or protect an individual’s money.

A conservator is a person appointed by a probate court and given the power and responsibility over financial assets and property of an adult or minor (protected person).  The conservator’s powers are limited to decisions regarding the financial affairs of the protected person.  A conservator may be needed when a protected person is unable to manage property and financial affairs effectively because property will be wasted unless proper management is provided or funds are needed for the support, care, and welfare.  A conservator for a minor is needed when a minor receives money from an inheritance, life insurance, wages, or an injury settlement over $5,000 in any one year.  The assets are turned over to the minor on their 18th birthday.  

A conservator owes a fiduciary duty of the highest trust to the protected person.  The conservator must use care in handling property, be prudent in making investments, and use assets only for the protected person’s benefit.  The conservator has a duty to account for every asset spent.  The conservator must file an inventory of all assets owned by the protected person.  Each year, the conservator is then required to file an accounting with the Probate Court setting forth the assets, income and disbursements made during the year.

A guardian is a person appointed by a probate court and given the power and responsibility to make certain decisions about the care of the protected person.  These decisions might include treatment decisions or where the protected person should live.  The guardian’s powers are limited to decisions regarding the care and custody of the protected person. A guardian may be needed when a person is unable to manage their personal affairs because of mental illness, dementia, age, infirmity, physical illness, disability, or chronic use of alcohol or intoxicants. A guardian of a minor is needed when the parent(s) have permitted a minor to reside with another person a guardian may be appointed.  When a minor is unmarried and parental rights have been terminated or suspended for some reason a guardian may be appointed.

A guardian is responsible for the protected person’s care, custody, and control.  The guardian has a duty to achieve the best possible state of well being for the protected person.

Compassionately and professionally, The Probate Pro will assist you with the filing of a guardianship or conservator petition.

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