Understanding Guardianships and Conservatorships

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Guardianships and conservatorships have many similarities, but they are also carry some major differences. Guardianships are designed to protect a vulnerable person and grant broad powers to the appointed guardian. Conservatorships are usually more limited, often granting specific authority over financial matters.

At Kondori & Moorad, LLP, our experienced elder law attorneys can help you understand guardianships and conservatorships to protect those you love.


Guardianships and conservatorships are court-ordered legal protections of a vulnerable person. The vulnerable person is unable to make decisions for themselves and need someone else to take over their legal decisions. A family member usually requests these protections on behalf of their loved one, with the help of a qualified elder law lawyer.

There are many reasons a person might need these legal protections. These include:

  • An aging loved one who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease
  • You have a child with special needs who has reached the age of 18
  • Your family member was hurt in an accident and is now incapacitated

Aging and cognitive issues are one of the top reasons your loved may need a conservatorship or guardianship. They likely need help with their finances, personal decisions, and even medical care. These legal protections empower you to act on their behalf and in their best interests.


A guardianship grants significant powers over a protected person. The family member who requests and is granted powers over another is typically referred to as the “guardian.” The guardian is empowered by the probate court to handle healthcare, financial, and even personal matters over the protected person.

A guardianship is a significant responsibility. The guardian is in a position of authority and power over a vulnerable individual, and is expected to take that position seriously. The protected person cannot handle their affairs alone, and they rely on you to do so instead.

Guardians are usually granted powers such as:

  • Full control over the protected person’s medical decisions
  • Control over the protected person’s finances, investments, and spending power
  • Authority over most legal decisions for the protected individual
  • Educational and vocational decision-making power
  • Decision-making authority over where the protected person will live

In some states, a guardianship refers to protections over a minor child, while a conservatorship refers to protections of an incapacitated adult. Your attorney can help you understand these distinctions as they apply to your jurisdiction.


Conservatorships are similar to guardianships, but typically grant a more limited scope of authority over the protected individual. The court may grant limited authority based upon the vulnerable person’s specific needs when they do not need a full guardianship.

A conservator is still a person of important authority. That person must petition the court for a conservatorship and follow specific guidelines that guard the protected person’s legal rights.


Conservators and guardians have fiduciary duties over their protected person. A fiduciary duty is a requirement of a person in any position of trust, including in these situations. The conservator or guardian must honestly, in good faith, and always in the best interests of the protected person. It is a legal obligation you must follow if appointed to care for another’s affairs.

The conservator or guardian is referred to as the “fiduciary” while the protected person is called a “principal” or “beneficiary.” Common fiduciary duties of conservatorships and guardianships include:

  • A duty of care to exercise sound judgment and prudent consideration in all decisions
  • A duty of loyalty to the beneficiary to always act in their best interests, rather than your own
  • A duty to act lawfully in accordance with state law
  • A duty to act in good faith

Your elder law attorney can more fully explain your duties as a conservator or guardian. This helps you protect your rights and those of your loved one.


At the law firm of Kondori & Moorad, LLP, we help you understand guardianships and conservatorships to protect your loved one. We can help you analyze what is most appropriate and guide you through the legal process. Contact us today to get started.

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