Q: What is a guardian?

A: A guardian is an individual or organization appointed by a court to make personal decisions, including medical decisions and living arrangements for an incapacitated person.

Q: What is a conservator?

A: A conservator is an individual or organization appointed by a court to make financial decisions for incapacitated persons.

Q: Do incapacitated persons always need both a guardian and conservator?

A: No.  The guardianship and conservatorship proceedings are often combined into one proceeding, but, sometimes, a person many only need a guardian or conservator, depending on the circumstances.

Q: How much does a guardianship and/or conservatorship proceeding cost?

A: It can cost several thousand dollars, or more, for a guardianship/conservatorship proceeding.  Petitions, orders from the Court, and doctor’s evaluations must be prepared, and a separate attorney, known as a guardian ad litem, must be appointed to represent the incapacitated person.  Due to the strict law regarding guardianship and conservatorship proceedings, it can often take several months to complete.

Q: My mother has dementia and we are having difficulty managing her financial and personal affairs.  Do we need to have a guardianship or conservatorship?

A:  Multiple means are often available to make decisions for incapacitated persons, such as a power of attorney, joint accounts and statutory default medical decision-makers for incapacitated persons.  However, if none of these means are available, or family members disagree regarding the decisions to be made for an incapacitated person, a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding may be necessary.