About Estate Planning
What is a guardian or conservator and what is the difference between these terms?
If someone becomes seriously impaired because of mental illness, mental deficiency, serious physical disability, chronic use of drugs, chronic intoxication, or other disability, guardianship proceedings may have to be commenced for such person. Guardianship proceedings are usually instituted when the protected person lacks the sufficient understanding or capability to make responsible decisions for themselves and their health. Usually these people are referred to as "incapacitated persons" and the term "ward" refers to the person who requires a guardian. Minor children may also need to have a guardian appointed if their parents can no longer serve or are found to be unfit in that capacity.
Conservatorship proceedings are commenced for a person who cannot effectively manage their estate because of lack of ability or are otherwise incapacitated. These people are referred to as "protected persons". The difference between the two is that the guardian handles the actual person such as living arrangements, health care, and social intervention, while the conservator handles the assets of the person. In most cases, the conservator and guardian are the same person.
When the protected person passes on, the conservator has certain duties such as delivery of the will to the court for safekeeping, informing the personal representative (executor/executrix) that all assets have been collected and protected, and to assist the personal representative after the protected person has passed on.
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