What do you need to know about a conservatorship?

There's more to know about conservators than the fact that they help you when you're unable to make decisions. Here are a few quick questions and answers.

Is there a difference between becoming a conservator or guardian?

In many states, the terms mean the same thing. However, a conservatorship could refer to a person who cares for an adult and has guardianship over that person. Sometimes a person will have two of these parties, a guardian and conservator, to help make financial or personal decisions separately.

Conservatorships and guardianships are used when a person can no longer take care of him or herself, if a child has no parents and has been orphaned or in other cases. Typically, conservatorships apply in situations where a person can't manage decisions due to illness, mental defects or old age.

If I appoint a conservator, will that person have power over my finances?

It depends on the powers granted in each state and your judge. It's common for a conservator to have power over financial matters. For example, he or she might be in charge of paying medical bills or for nursing care. Two kinds of conservators may exist separately, and you can request to have a conservator handle only one part of your life or another. A conservator for your estate works with your finances and may pay bills or for other needs you have, while one who takes care of your personal matters is known as a conservator of the person.

What if you don't want to be placed into a conservatorship?

If you are older or have the potential to be incapacitated for other reasons, having a power of attorney and living will helps you avoid a conservatorship that you don't have control over. Your estate planning attorney can help you create these documents.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is a Conservatorship? 5 Basic Questions," accessed Dec. 16, 2016

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