As an adult, it is assumed that you can care for yourself and make decisions regarding your estate and your welfare. However, times arise when a person is unable to care for themselves and at that point, a court-appointed decision maker may step in. These people are known as conservators or guardians.
When a Decision Maker Is Needed?
There are many circumstances during which a decision maker may need to step in and determine what is best for the individual. A conservator is designated to make decisions regarding finances when a person can’t make them due to disability, injury or illness. A guardian is appointed to make decisions related to non-monetary issues, such as healthcare. Common situations when a decision maker may be needed include:
- When a person is mentally challenged
- When a person suffers a brain injury
- When a person suffers a stroke
- When a person is in a coma
- When a person has dementia or Alzheimer’s
When a person is determined to be incapacitated, the court will appoint someone to help make important life decisions. The court may appoint both a conservator and a guardian in some situations, and will hold a hearing where the health care, financial and living situation is examined to determine what is necessary.
Conservatorship Versus Guardianship
There may be times when one or the other is needed to help the individual. For example, a guardian may be needed for someone who has been placed in a nursing home but has no other financial income or assets other than what the government provides. Therefore, there is need for a guardian but no conservator.
A conservator is needed when a person is incapacitated and is left with the inability to handle financial matters although they heal physically. Then a conservator is appointed to handle any insurance settlements, pay rent, provide money for groceries and make sure the person has money to live on.
Who Does the Court Choose?
The court’s first choice for guardian or conservator is usually a family member such as an adult child, parent, domestic partner or spouse. If those are not available, they may consider other friends and family. When those are not an option, they may turn to a neutral guardianship attorney with experience in the area. The court may also appoint different people to serve as guardian or conservator.
If you are concerned about what who will make important choices for you if you are incapacitated or have a family member you are concerned about, it’s recommended that you meet with a guardianship law group such as Horn & Johnsen. Contact us today to set up a free consultation and we will answer any questions you have.