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13February 19

Conservatorship vs. Guardianship: What’s the Difference?

Conservatorship and guardianship are legal processes to provide for those who are unable to make informed decisions for themselves. Both involve a judge appointing a conservator or guardian responsible for making decisions on another’s behalf.

But what is the difference between conservatorship vs. guardianship? Below, we discuss what to do when a loved one can no longer manage their own affairs. For more information, speak to a Palmdale CA conservatorship lawyer or guardianship lawyer for help. Call the Herbert Law Office today for a free consultation.

What Is Guardianship?

In California, a court establishes guardianship over a minor child when both parents cannot provide a safe and secure home. This may be due to death, disability or another circumstance that leaves the child without a responsible parent.

The appointed guardian has legal authority to manage the child’s personal, legal, medical, and financial affairs until they’re an adult. They can be a family member, family friend, or another qualified and willing adult. The legal guardian can be given custody of a child, the child’s assets, or both the child and their assets.

If the court appoints you as a child’s legal guardian, you are an officer of the court. This means that you take on duties and obligations beyond that of a parent. The court holds you responsible for providing food, clothing, shelter, education, and all medical and dental needs of the child. As guardian of the child’s estate, you will also need to comply with the court’s insurance, record-keeping, and accounting requirements.

Alternatives to Guardianship

Alternatives to seeking court-appointed guardianship are available in California. Three types of agreements you could work with an attorney to execute with a child’s parents include:

  1. Private Agreement that establishes the parents’ consent for you to provide for their child’s care;
  2. Medical Release for health-related emergencies that the parents can revoke at any time; and
  3. Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit that allows the child’s relative to cover their educational and medical needs.

What Is Conservatorship?

California courts establish conservatorships to secure the protection of adults that are no longer able to handle their own affairs. The person may be incapacitated due to disease, disability, or old age. A conservatorship provides another person the decision-making authority over the incapacitated person’s personal, medical, legal, and financial affairs.

Like guardians, a court-appointed conservator can be a relative, friend, or another willing and qualified adult. The court gives the conservator the authority to make health-related and financial decisions on behalf of the conservatee. They will also be responsible for managing the conservatee’s estate by handling investments and assets, and paying bills and taxes.

In California, there are two types of conservatorships: Probate or Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorship:

  1. Probate Conservatorship can be “general” or “limited”. Limited Probate Conservatorship is established when the conservatee is developmentally disabled. General Probate Conservatorship is necessary when the conservatee can’t care for themselves due to injury, age, or disease. Limited conservatorship allows the conservatee to live a semi-independent life while general conservatorship protects those who need complete care.
  2. LPS Conservatorship is often provided at the request of government agencies. It is granted for one year when someone is severely mentally disabled and cannot or will not consent to treatment.

A conservatorship will end when the conservatee passes or is once again able to manage their own affairs. A conservatorship of the conservatee’s estate will terminate when it runs out of money.

Alternatives to Conservatorship

Before you seek conservatorship, you should make sure you’ve exhausted all other legal alternatives. California courts view it as a last resort because it limits an adult’s independence and freedom. If alternatives like these listed below do not exist, conservatorship may be your best option:

  • Durable Power of Attorney names someone to be responsible for a person’s care and instructs the type of medical treatment desired; and
  • Advanced Healthcare Directive specifies what happens when someone cannot make medical decisions for themselves.

Learn More About Conservatorship vs. Guardianship in California

Conservatorship and guardianship are legal tools that you can use to protect a loved one’s personal, financial, and legal well-being. That’s why it’s a good idea to plan ahead with a Palmdale CA estate planning attorney. Contact the experienced guardianship and conservatorship attorneys at Herbert Law Office today. We can help you navigate the process.

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