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How guardianships and conservatorships differ

Watching your parents grow older is rarely easy, but it can prove particularly difficult if they start to lose their memories, break down physically or otherwise change before your eyes. In some cases, older Americans become unable to care for and make sound decisions on their own behalf, which may result in you looking to establish either a guardianship or a conservatorship.

While both guardianships and conservatorships can give someone else the ability to make decisions on your parents’ behalf, some key distinctions exist between the two types. Understanding exactly what these distinctions are should help you figure out whether a guardianship or a conservatorship may better suit your needs.

The guardianship

When you establish a guardianship over one of your parents, you are essentially giving the appointed guardian the ability to make decisions relating to health care, living arrangements and more on your parent’s behalf. To establish a guardianship over a particular individual, a court must first deem the person either incapacitated or incompetent.

The conservatorship

A conservatorship, meanwhile, involves having someone assume power over an incapacitated or incompetent person’s financial affairs. For example, a conservator may assume control over someone else’s bank accounts, stocks and so on. This person may, too, have to pay those bills and collect debts on the other person’s behalf.

Naming guardians and conservators

In some cases, people can decide for themselves who they want to serve as their guardians or conservators by designating a specific person in a living will or power of attorney. In other cases, it may become the duty of the court to appoint someone who can take on one or both roles.

If your parents become unable to make informed decisions on their own behalf, it may be time to step in and have someone take over as guardian or conservator. Doing so may help give you peace of mind that your loved one will receive the care and attention he or she deserves and warrants.

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