Guardianship vs Conversatorship: Understanding the Differences and When You May Need One

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Are you confused about the differences between guardianship and conservatorship?

Generally speaking, guardians have control over everyday decisions, while conservators have control over financial matters. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they can mean slightly different things. Appointing a guardian or conservator is an important decision, so it’s important to educate yourself on the two terms, their processes and the local laws in your area.

What is Guardianship?

A guardian is an individual who has legal responsibility to care for a child in the event that both parents pass away. If a legal guardian is not appointed by the parents, the court will make a decision. Guardians can be named under various circumstances, but the most common is during estate planning. Guardians can also be appointed temporarily, such as if the parents will be away for an extended period of time. Some jurisdictions also recognize “adult guardianships,” which is when a guardian is assigned to care for an adult who doesn’t have the capacity to care for themselves.

What is Conservatorship?

Conservators have similar control over a child or adult, but it’s typically more limited. For instance, there are two main types of conservatorship: limited conservatorship of the person (taking care of the person’s needs) and limited conservatorships of the estate (taking care of the person’s finances). One person can be assigned to both roles, or two people can each have one role. The conservatorship is focused on the needs of the person and keeping them healthy and safe.

The Processes for Becoming a Guardian

Remember, each state is different, and the laws may vary. In general, you can assign someone to be a guardian by naming them in your will. You may also be able to file a guardianship proceeding in court, or sign a form in front of a witness appointing a guardian. Many people assume that guardians are only needed if a parent dies, but they can also be helpful in the following situations:

  • You are unable to care for your child at the moment
  • A court has terminated your parental rights
  • You will be away for a while, such as when attending a rehab program
  • You are seriously ill, incapacitated or unfit to raise a child due to addiction, child neglect or domestic abuse in the household
  • You are incarcerated

The Process for Conservatorship

Conversators are appointed by the court. Each court is different, but you can typically expect a court hearing where the court will look at the medical records and other matters to decide what is in the best interest of the person. The court also looks at whether or not the conservator has the capability to properly care for the person. Moving forward, the court will monitor the conservator, who is required to file annual reports in regards to financial transactions.

Substance Use and Child Custody

If you are experiencing substance use or mental health problems, assigning someone to be the guardian of your child can put your mind at ease. You can attend an inpatient rehabilitation program while knowing that your child is being cared for. Or, if any complications were to arise, your child will go to a person you know and trust. Otherwise, the courts will have to make this decision.

As long as you seek treatment, attempt to overcome substance use and keep your child safe, you can likely be reunited with them. To learn more about seeking treatment while making arrangements for your child, contact Spearhead Health today. Our case management services take every detail into account, removing barriers and allowing individuals to get the care and support they need.