When an individual is no longer able to manage their personal or financial affairs, the court may appoint a guardian and/or conservator to act on their behalf. The position comes with a great deal of responsibility, as a guardian or conservator is legally bound to make decisions for the incapacitated person, also known as the protected person. Guardians and conservators may make decisions about matters such as:

  • Financial affairs
  • Healthcare, therapies and treatments
  • Safety
  • Residence
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Personal care

There are several types of guardians/conservators. These include:

  • Guardianship — The guardian has authority to make personal decisions on behalf of the protected person
  • Limited guardianship — The guardian has authority over some decisions as determined by the court, such as healthcare or finances
  • Temporary guardianship — The court appoints a guardian for a limited period, such as 90 days
  • Joint guardianship — More than one guardian shares decision-making authority
  • Conservatorship — The conservator has the authority to make financial and property decisions for the protected person. Conservatorships may be full, limited, temporary, or joint

One person can serve as both guardian and conservator; the laws — and terminology — varies from state to state. In all cases, the guardian/conservator must adhere to strict legal standards and is closely monitored by the court.