What is the difference between a guardianship and a conservatorship?
A "guardianship" is control over an incompetent person's personal and medical affairs. A "conservatorship" is control over an incompetent person's financial affairs.
Can you have one without the other?
They generally go together, but it is possible to have either a stand alone guardianship, or stand alone conservatorship. The incompetent individual is referred to as the "Ward".
Are there ways to avoid having to do a guardianship or conservatorship?
Guardianships and conservatorships are an action of last measure to manage an incompetent or incapacitated person's personal and financial affairs. Generally, where a person has in place a valid Power of Attorney and Advance Directive for Health Care, a guardianship is not needed, because the agent has been empowered to act on the incompetent individual's behalf. Obviously, if the person has no such document, or has always been incompetent (e.g. a special needs child), a guardianship/conservatorship is the only option. Guardianships/conservatorships are cumbersome because they require a court supervised process, which is also of public record. A guardian/conservator must petition the court, have a hearing to determine incompetency, post a bond and annually report to the court. A guardianship/conservatorship revokes all legal rights of the individual, either as to personal decisions in a guardianship, or over their financial affairs in a conservatorship.
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