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What's the difference between a guardian and a conservator?

When an adult is incapable of handling his or her own affairs, the court might step in and appoint another person to do so. This person can take on the role of guardian or conservator, which are two similar designations that still have a few important distinctions. The Balance explains the difference, along with highlighting the essential duties.

Guardians address personal needs

The primary role of a guardian is to ensure the ward is taken care of on a personal level. This includes keeping up with medical appointments and treatments, choosing a place to live, and communicating with doctors and the court. A guardian may also be asked to make decisions regarding care, although how much leverage a person has usually varies from state to state.

Conservators handle finances

Conservators also serve a vital function, albeit from a financial perspective. All assets and property owned by a ward will be in the care of the conservator. That means he or she must make decisions on real estate transactions, settle outstanding bills and debts, ensure recurring bills are paid, file yearly income tax, and handle any documentation with financial institutions or other official matters.

Both roles are subject to review

Courts usually request a full accounting on a person's financial and physical health on a yearly basis. Conservators will prepare an annual report that details how money was spent on behalf of the ward, including any investments or sales involving assets. In terms of physical care, the court may also request a doctor's summary of the ward's current health condition, as well as how and what type of medical care will be delivered during the upcoming year.

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