A guardian and/or conservator is a person appointed by the probate court, upon the filing of a petition, to act for a person who has been found by clear and convincing evidence to be partially or totally incapacitated or disabled.
A person for whom a guardian has been appointed is called a “ward” and a person for whom a conservator has been appointed is called a “protectee”. A guardian takes charge of the person of the and may make placement decisions (example: where they should live) for the ward. A conservator takes possession of a protectee’s property and income.
Guardianships and conservatorships can be limited or complete, depending on the circumstances of the individual.
These issues normally arise when special needs children are over age 18 and therefore no longer minors under the law and in situations where a senior has lost capacity to make his own decisions.
Guardians and conservators are considered “fiduciaries” which mean they have special duties imposed on them with respect to decisions they make for the ward / protectee.
When an individual has capacity to make their own decisions but wants to plan for incapacity, they can create a healthcare power of attorney and a durable financial power of attorney. Once the individual no longer has capacity to make their own decisions, someone must be appointed as a guardian and conservator to make such decisions for the individual.