Guardianship and Conservatorship Forms

The role of guardian and/or conservator is one that carries with it considerable responsibility as well as considerable rewards. While assuming the role of guardian/conservator may appear to be a daunting task at first glance, the process of appointment and the fulfillment of ongoing duties are not as complicated as they may seem. While the following list is by no means all-inclusive, it does attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about guardianships and conservatorships.

What is a guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal relationship that gives one or more individuals or agencies the responsibility of the personal affairs of a specified individual- usually a protected person unable to manage their affairs, or a minor.

What is a conservatorship?

Conservatorship is similar to guardianship in that it is a legal relationship between individual and one or more others appointed by the court to make decisions on behalf of that individual. However, while a guardianship may encompass all personal affairs (support, care, health, habilitation, therapeutic treatment, and if not inconsistent with an order of commitment or custody, the residence) of an individual, a conservatorship is limited to the management of the property and financial affairs of the individual.

Who can be a guardian/conservator?

A family member or other interested individual may petition for the appointment of guardian/conservator for a protected person. However, when a relative or other appropriate person is not qualified and willing to act in this capacity, an agency may step in to act.

What are the duties of a guardian/conservator?

A guardian/conservator must maintain contact with the individual to become familiar with needs and limitations, and only exercise their decision- making authority to the extent required by those limitations. The guardian/conservator must respect the fact that their relationship with the individual is a confidential one, and should encourage the individual's participation in decision-making to the extent possible. Obviously, the guardian/conservator must always act in the best interest of the individual, and never become involved in a situation that might give the appearance of a conflict of interest. Finally, the court does require that the guardian/conservator provide some information to the court, including information pertaining to the individual's finances and personal inventory, and an annual personal status report.

What is the potential liability of a guardian/conservator?

A guardian or conservator is not individually liable for the actions of the individual unless the guardian/conservator was personally negligent. Also, a guardian/conservator is not required to expend his/her own funds on behalf of an individual. However, a guardian may be held liable if they have failed in taking reasonable steps to assure that the individual person receives proper care and/or services, or have improperly managed the individual's property or finances.

What rights does an individual give up when a guardian/conservator is appointed?

An individual retains all rights not granted to the guardian/conservator through the appointment by the court. For example, the guardian/conservator does not have the right to change an individual's state of residence, marital status, parental rights, or power of attorney without the court's specific authorization.

What is the procedure for the appointment of a guardian/conservator?

First, a petition for the appointment of guardianship/conservatorship outlining the need for the appointment and the type of appointment requested is filed in the appropriate county. A statement of financial resources and a report from a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist describing the person's level of impairment, ability to appear at the hearing, and need for protection is also filed. The court then conducts a hearing and determines whether a guardianship /conservatorship is appropriate, and if so, whether a full or limited appointment is most appropriate.

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