Conservatorship Vs. Guardianship
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Conservatorship Vs. Guardianship

Is conservatorship or guardianship appropriate for your situation? Discover how the two terms vary and what each involves.

When it comes to the ins and outs of substitute decision-making, there is usually confusion relating to the words “conservatorship” and “guardianship.” A lot of this confusion comes in the fact that there is not any one conventional legal definition for either of them, and the terms that apply to your particular situation is going to depend on the statutes of the state of residency of your ward, or individual to who the conservatorship or guardianship relates.

Differences between conservatorships and guardianships

In a lot of states, guardianship provides an individual control over the personal, daily decisions of a ward, whereas a conservatorship provides the authority to oversee another individual’s financial decisions. Nevertheless, in many states, guardianship is the term used when the ward in question is underage, whereas conservatorship applies for the caring of an incapacitated or debilitated adult.

To best establish which term applies to your circumstances, you should investigate how your state defines and applies both of them. Irrespective of the definition, many states require an application or request to the state courts to acquire the legal authority relating to conservatorship or guardianship. The steps of the process vary by state, so make sure to research what information you require to file in addition to the filing and court dates you are required to track.

Limited conservatorship

Some states accept the idea of limited conservatorships, whereupon the court designates a conservator the accountability to care for a conservatee, or an adult with cognitive issues that is incapable of caring for themselves either independently or financially.

There are typically two kinds of limited conservatorships:

  • Limited conservatorships of the estate. The conservator is accountable for taking care of the financial requirements of the conservatee.
  • Limited conservatorships of the person. The conservator is accountable for taking care of the personal requirements of the conservatee, and

Whereas one individual might take on the responsibilities of both kinds of limited conservatorships, it’s also not uncommon to have one individual designated as the conservator of the estate while another is granted responsibility as conservator of the person.

Legal guardianship

Whereas states usually define the term guardianship variously, within the conditions of estate planning intentions, legal guardianship typically refers to designating an individual in a will to have the legal responsibility for the child(ren) of the individual that created the will, in the event of both parents pass away. If you don’t designate a legal guardian in the will prior to you passing, the court is going to determine what is going to happen to your children.

Along with selecting an individual you feel is going to take proper care of your children should anything happen to you, it’s also important to discuss your decision with the individual you’ve selected. Being designated as a legal guardian comes with a ton of responsibilities, so you are going to want to make sure the individual you designate is willing to take on the part.

Temporary guardianship

In some instances, parents could find themselves reliant on a temporary guardian for their children. For instance, if you and your spouse or partner are going to be abroad for an extended period of time, it’s wise to designate a temporary guardian to take care of your children’s requirements, both personally and financially, while you’re away.

A petition can be made to the courts to designate a temporary guardian, but subject to the jurisdiction in which you live, you might also be able to designate a temporary guardian by yourself by way of a letter of guardianship. Should you choose to do so, care should be taken in creating the document so that it’s clear precisely what authorization and responsibilities the temporary guardian is going to have.

Despite whether the temporary guardian is designated by the court or through some other way, temporary guardianships usually have a set amount of time throughout which legal responsibility over the child(ren) is granted. After this set amount of time ends, the temporary guardianship also ends.

Both conservatorships and guardianships are important ideations that should be addressed throughout the estate planning process. Since state laws differ in the way they handle these terms, it is vital to properly research the necessities of the state in which you live and learn what term is relevant to your particular situation.


  1. Belle Wong, J. D. (2023, May 11). Conservatorship vs. guardianship. LegalZoom.

Arizona Family Law

Naming guardians in your will can be part of your estate plan. You may think you’re too young or don’t have enough money to justify the expense, but if you have children, you have priceless assets. There are many considerations when naming guardians for your kids. However, the process doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.

There’s nothing better than the peace of mind you will have knowing you’ve protected your family at a time when they need it most. Let us help. Schedule a consultation or contact Ogborne Law, PLC of Arizona today.

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