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Conservatorship vs. Guardianship

If you have concerns about how to best care for an aging parent or another close relative, turn to E.A. Goodman Law, LLC. Our elder law attorneys regularly advise families throughout New Jersey on conservatorships and guardianships.

While both are court-ordered, legal protective arrangements, there are significant differences between the two. When you consult with us, we will take the time to understand your concerns and help address those concerns by providing you with compassionate representation. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

What is a conservatorship?

In a conservatorship, a person is appointed by the court to act as a conservator and manage the financial affairs of an adult who does not require the full protection of guardianship. Notably, a conservatorship is a voluntary process, and the protected person (the conservatee) consents to allow the conservator to manage his or her assets.  

Conservatorship is usually sought by family members for a loved one who can no longer make their own decisions. A conservatorship may be necessary when an elderly parent suffers from memory loss or a family member suffers a serious illness or injury. 

Unlike guardianship, however, no determination of incapacity is required to establish a conservatorship. Instead, the court determines that the protected person’s decision-making ability is impaired to such a degree that he or she cannot properly manage financial matters.

While a guardian is authorized to make all types of personal, financial, and medical decisions for the protected person, a conservator’s decision-making authority is more limited. The powers of a conservator include: 

  • Arranging payments for the support, maintenance, and education of the conservatee
  • Paying debts 
  • Managing assets and investments
  • Filing income tax returns
  • Entering into contracts on the conservatee’s behalf

A conservator has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the conservatee. Also, a conservator must seek court approval for some actions, like making extraordinary expenditures, and provide an annual accounting to the court detailing his or her actions on behalf of the conservatee. 

Given the important responsibilities that come with being a conservator, it is crucial to have trustworthy legal advice. Our knowledgeable elder law attorneys can help guide you through the process. 

What is a Guardianship?

A guardianship is designed to protect an adult who is disabled or mentally incapacitated and no longer capable of making decisions about his or her own person or property. In this arrangement, the protected person (the ward) is placed under the supervision of a guardian – usually a family member or close friend. There are two types of guardianship: guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate or property:

Guardianship of the Person 

The guardian is responsible for overseeing the ward’s care and welfare. In particular, the guardian has decision-making authority over where the ward will live, medical care, and end-of-life decisions. At the same time, the guardian has a legal obligation to maintain as much of the ward’s autonomy as possible.  

Guardianship of the Estate or Property

A guardianship of the estate is similar to a conservatorship. The guardian is authorized to make important financial decisions on behalf of the ward, such as managing bank accounts, investments, and real estate, and paying bills and expenses. This type of guardianship is necessary when an incapacitated person has not established an estate plan and is often a temporary arrangement that protects the ward until he or she regains capacity. 

Guardianship of Minors

In New Jersey, guardianships may also be established to protect the legal rights of a minor when a parent is no longer capable of acting on a child’s behalf. In these situations, a close relative is typically appointed as the guardian. A guardianship of a minor may be necessary if:

  • The child’s parents become incapacitated or die simultaneously 
  • The parents are providing inadequate care
  • The child is being abused

A guardianship does not terminate the legal relationship between the parents and child, however, and parental approval is typically sought prior to any legal proceeding. 

Why Choose Us?

At E.A. Goodman Law, our elder law attorneys are well-versed in the rules governing guardianships and conservatorships and regularly work with families to establish protective arrangements. We also provide comprehensive estate planning services to clients and look for alternatives to protective arrangements, such as revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, powers of attorneys, and advance healthcare directives. Above all, we will help you make informed decisions and ensure that your loved one’s interests are protected. 

Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Conservatorship and Guardianship Attorneys

Whether you are seeking to establish a guardianship or a conservatorship for your loved one, we will provide you with knowledge, compassion, and the personal attention you deserve. Contact our office today for a consultation. 

EA Goodman Law helps clients with conservatorship and guardianship throughout New Jersey including Bergen County, Morris County, Morristown, Somerset County, and Union County.