The fundamental difference between guardians and conservators is in the power they are given. Both protect a vulnerable person, but conservators and guardians have very different roles when it comes to managing the finances and day-to-day decisions regarding a vulnerable person.
Remember that each state has different rules, guidelines, etc that govern conservatorships and guardianships. For example, Minnesota outlines a clear difference in powers between conservators and guardians, while in other states, the two roles may share powers and responsibilities.
It’s important to keep in mind that the courts give powers to conservators and guardians. Each case will be different, and the role of each conservator and guardian can differ, depending on the powers granted by the courts. Each state also has different laws that govern conservators and guardians. While the general responsibilities laid out in this post are similar to those in most states, it’s essential to check with the courts regarding the specific powers of each role in your state.
The Basics of Being a Guardian
Guardianship is designed to oversee the personal management of a protected person. A guardian decides on the personal decisions that affect the protected person’s daily life, these decisions can include:
- Medical decisions
- Maintenance needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc.)
- Educational and training (when appropriate)
- Social and recreational activities
- Abode: where the protected person lives
Guardians usually do not have financial powers or power over the estate of a protected person (this power is reserved for conservators). However, guardians do have the power to seek the appointment of a conservator if they deem it necessary. The also have the authority to petition the court to establish a special needs trust.
Each year, guardians must present to the courts a statement of wellbeing. This is a general update on the wellbeing of the protected person. An annual notice of rights is also given to a protected person/ward each year. This document states that they have the right to go to the courts and change the guardianship.
For the full outline of a guardian’s powers in MN, see MS 524.5-313.
The Basics of Being a Conservator
The essential purpose of a conservatorship is to manage the financial assets of a protected person. A conservator has the duty to protect the estate of a vulnerable person, and they generally have the power to manage the investments and day-to-day spending. Unlike guardians, conservators normally do not control medical and other personal decisions.
Conservators also have the power over contracts. With the court’s permission, they can sell real estate and sign other contracts, within reason.
Conservators are often charged with managing an estate, paying lawful debts, collecting debts owed to the estate, and managing investments. They also have the power to hire professionals to help them with accounting, investing, taxes, etc.
For the full outline of a conservator’s powers in MN, see MS 524.5-417.
Both Require a Surety Bond
Another similarity between conservators and guardians is surety. The courts will most likely require that a conservator or guardian obtain a surety bond that acts as a type of financial protection should mismanagement or fraud take place. Depending on the state, a bond can be required for either conservator or guardian, or both. Whether a bond is needed also depends on the powers given to a guardian or conservator.
To learn more about the type of bond you need as a guardian or conservator, contact The Patrick J. Thomas Agency today.
Disclaimer: this is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you need legal counsel, please contact an attorney directly.