Conservatorships vs. Guardianships

It’s important to understand the difference between conservatorships and guardianships when you’re caring for a loved one who needs help managing their affairs. As family members, you may need to decide who will handle finances or ensure day-to-day well-being. Whether you’re supporting an elderly parent or a child with special needs, making the right choice ensures your loved one receives the care they deserve. At Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., we can provide guidance to help you make these important decisions for your family’s peace of mind.

What Is a Conservatorship?

A conservatorship is a legal arrangement where a court appoints an individual or organization, known as the conservator, to manage the financial affairs and property of someone who is unable to do so themselves. This might be necessary for an elderly parent suffering from dementia, an adult with a severe disability, or anyone who cannot make sound financial decisions due to mental or physical limitations. The conservator is responsible for tasks like paying bills, managing investments, and protecting the person’s assets. 

What Is a Guardianship?

With respect to guardianship, a court appoints an individual, known as the guardian, to make personal and medical decisions for someone who cannot do so themselves. This arrangement is often necessary for minors, adults with severe disabilities, or elderly individuals with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. The guardian is responsible for decisions related to the person’s health care, living arrangements, education, and overall well-being. This role is vital for ensuring the individual’s safety, dignity, and quality of life.

Key Differences Between Conservatorships and Guardianships

Conservatorships and guardianships serve distinct roles in caring for individuals unable to manage their own affairs. A conservatorship focuses on managing an individual’s financial matters and property. It is often used for those who cannot handle their financial responsibilities due to age, disability, or illness. In contrast, guardianship addresses personal and medical decisions for someone who cannot make those decisions independently. While conservators handle financial stability, guardians focus on personal care and quality of life. In Massachusetts, the legal process for establishing each involves petitioning the probate court, but the roles and responsibilities differ significantly.

How to Choose Between Conservatorship and Guardianship

Choosing between conservatorship and guardianship depends on the specific needs of your loved one. If they require help with managing finances and property, a conservatorship might be the best choice. On the other hand, guardianship would be more appropriate if the primary need is for someone to make personal, medical, or daily living decisions. Assess your loved one’s ability to manage their affairs and consider consulting with a legal professional to determine the best option for their situation.

Legal Process and Requirements in Massachusetts

Establishing a conservatorship or guardianship in Massachusetts involves a legal process through the probate court. First, you must file a petition with the court, providing detailed information about the individual’s condition and the need for a conservator or guardian. The court may appoint an attorney or investigator to assess the situation and represent the individual’s best interests. A hearing is then held where evidence and testimonies are presented. If the court finds the arrangement necessary, it will appoint a conservator or guardian, who must regularly report on the individual’s welfare and financial status to ensure continued oversight and protection.

Contact Our Southeastern Massachusetts Conservatorship and Guardianship Attorneys

At Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., we provide compassionate, experienced guidance to help you navigate the complexities of conservatorships and guardianships. Our team will support you in making informed decisions and ensure your loved one receives the care and protection they need. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can assist with your family’s unique situation.