Have you ever heard the terms conservatorship and guardianship? You may have heard these terms before, or you could be hearing them for the first time as you begin your estate planning process. While these items may seem similar, they are very different and understanding those differences is essential to ensure that you select the correct one.

According to the state, a conservatorship protects the business affairs and property of a protected person, while a guardianship only protects a person.

Understanding the differences between the two

If you are looking to appoint someone to make decisions regarding health and personal-related decisions on behalf of someone the court has deemed incompetent or incapacitated, you are looking for a guardian.

guardian’s responsibilities can include:

  • Personal care of their ward
  • Ensuring medical needs are met
  • Providing them with a place to live
  • Minor financial responsibilities like buying daily necessities

A conservatorship is more focused on making business and financial decisions on behalf of a protected person. These responsibilities can involve:

  • Determining what assets like real estate or personal property should be bought, held or sold
  • Making financial decisions on the ward’s behalf
  • Keeping contact with the ward’s financial institution to make sure things are going smoothly
  • Paying bills, whether medical or personal, using the ward’s finances

While it is your affairs at the heart of the estate plan, that does not mean you have to have all the answers and create your plan alone. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you fully understand the difference between these two tools.