What is the difference between guardianship and conservatorship?

On Behalf of | May 1, 2020 | Estate Planning

When you have a relative who is in decline due to age or a medical condition, it may be time to ask the hard questions and consider becoming a guardian or conservator. If your relative has just started to decline, it is better to discuss with them the need for overseeing their care and assets before they become fully incapacitated.

How the two roles work in Missouri

Missouri law dictates that you may petition a court to become a guardian for your loved one or a conservator of their estate. That person must be partially or fully incapacitated in order to file the petition. Both roles involve a level of stewardship and authority over your loved one’s affairs. Here’s how the two functions differ:

  • Guardianship: A guardian has a certain measure of control over their loved one’s medical care, potential move into assisted living, and the kind of activities they can engage in that might endanger themselves or others.
  • Conservatorship: A conservator is given control over a portion or the entire estate of the incapacitated person. This role may be limited to certain types of decisions related to the management of the person’s assets.

Dealing with partial incapacitation

When determining the extent that a guardianship or conservatorship is necessary, the principle of ‘least restrictive environment’ applies. This means that a person should be allowed to retain as much control of their personal and financial life as is possible under their physical restrictions. If a court determines that this is the case, a limited guardianship/conservatorship might be issued.

Finding the option that best suits your loved one

It can be a difficult task of convincing your loved one that they may not be capable of handling their own affairs anymore. Then again, if you prolong that decision and wait too long, it could mean dire circumstances for their health and finances. You want to be sympathetic to their wishes, but you also want what’s best for them, especially if their judgment has become impaired. If you believe your loved one is deteriorating mentally and physically, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer experienced in estate planning to discuss their options.