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What’s the difference between a conservatorship and a guardianship?

While many people put off estate planning for one reason or another, starting a new chapter in one’s life, such as having a child, often motivates them to reassess the contingency plans they may have in place. Parents are even more apt to do this if they have a child with special needs and want to ensure that they receive the financial support they need if something were to happen to them. Others do so after watching a loved one become incapacitated or incompetent.

These are just some instances in which setting up either a guardianship or a conservatorship can help you plan for the future.

What is a guardianship?

Minnesota law allows for certain relatives of incapacitated or incompetent individuals to petition a judge for the appointment of a guardian to handle their personal affairs on their behalf. This appointed guardian may make living arrangements and medical and other decisions to protect their ward’s wellbeing and safety as well as that of their minor children.

What is a conservatorship?

A judge may appoint a conservator to assist someone who is no longer able to take care of their finances due to incompetence or incapacitation.  Conservators gain the ability to manage a ward’s investment portfolio, bank accounts and other assets once they step into their role. 

Are conservators and guardians always relatives?

While a relative may be aware that their loved one needs either a guardian or conservator appointed to take care of their different obligations, they may not want to take over such a responsibility. A judge may appoint someone to these roles themselves. 

A judge can appoint one or more individuals to serve as either conservators or guardians. It may even be possible for someone to hold both roles. If multiple people are in these positions, then it’s their responsibility to consult with each other about decisions before taking any actions. 

Selecting a conservator or guardian for your dependent family member can be difficult. An experienced advocate may be able to offer you invaluable guidance.