Guardianship and Conservatorship

What is guardianship and conservatorship?

Guardianship is a legal relationship whereby the Probate Court gives one person (the guardian) the authority to make personal decisions for the protected person such as healthcare decisions, and where they live. Conservatorship is a legal relationship whereby the Probate Court gives on person (the conservator) the power to make financial decisions for the protected person.

When is guardianship or conservatorship appropriate?

Guardianship or conservatorship is appropriate when impaired judgment or capacity poses a major threat to a person’s welfare.

How does the guardianship or conservatorship process work?

A medical evaluation by a licensed physician is necessary to establish the proposed ward’s condition and then a petition must be filed with the Probate Court requesting the appointment. The court directs that the heirs of the ward and the ward themselves receive notice of the filing and sets a date by which anyone wishing to object may do so. Then a hearing is held where a judge decides whether a guardian or conservator should be appointed.

What are the alternatives to guardianship and conservatorship?

There are several less restrictive alternatives to guardianship you can put in place when you are competent to do so. These include durable powers of attorney, representative payees, trusts, and health care proxies. Each of these options may avoid or delay the need for a guardian or conservator.

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