What is the difference between guardianships and conservatorships?

On Behalf of | Jan 12, 2022 | Family Law

When navigating the complex area of family law, you may face a situation in which you need to provide care for an adult loved one.

You may want to discuss specifics with an attorney, but here is a description of what guardianships and conservatorships entail.


A guardian is court-appointed to make personal decisions for the subject of the guardianship. The caretaker has the authority to make certain determinations on behalf of the protected person regarding living arrangements, education and medical decisions.

A person becomes subject to guardianship if they are a minor or incapacitated adult who lacks adequate comprehension to make their own decisions. These people must lack the ability to care for their own medical, nutrition, clothing, safety or shelter needs. The court determines that it is in the best interest of people without certain capabilities to have important life decisions made by another party.


Unlike a guardian, a conservator makes financial determinations, rather than personal decisions, for the subject of the conservatorship. The court-appointed conservator normally has the authority to pay bills, invest assets, enter into contracts and perform basic financial functions on behalf of the protected person.

A person becomes subject to a conservatorship because they lack the capacity to make financial decisions in their own best interest. The capacity requirements are similar to those in a guardianship.

Unfortunately, many families find themselves in need of setting up a guardianship, conservatorship or both. A lawyer may be able to assist you in understanding exactly what each involves.