What's the difference and why are they important?
Conservatorship proceedings are for the protection of elders, while guardianship proceedings are for the protection of minors.
When an elder (or "dependent adult") is mentally or physically unable to take care of his or her needs, then it may be an appropriate time to consider establishing, what is known as a, 'conservatorship'. In California, a conservatorship attorney accomplishes this by preparing, and filing with the court, a petition for conservatorship, along with the other required documentation.
Generally there are two kinds of conservatorships: (1) over the "person"- appropriate when an elder cannot take care of their personal needs (i.e., acquiring or maintaining food, clothing, and/or shelter); and (2) over the "estate"- when an elder cannot make sound financial decisions, including but not limited to, resisting fraud or undue influence matters.
The attorney and client should always first determine whether any alternatives exist so the same goals can be established and obtained without the need for a formal conservatorship. Trusts and Powers of Attorney are two such alternatives.
Once a conservatorship is established, the conservator's actions are subjected to court oversight. The conservator must file a periodic accounting with the court, reporting all funds spent and received. The conservator must petition the court to be awarded reasonable fees for his or her work on the case and to be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses.
Guardianship cases involve the protection and/or management of the assets of a minor. There are two factors considered and are distinguished between whether a guardianship will be sought out for the person, or the estate, or both.
Guardianships of the person are typically sought out when parents are either unavailable or no longer capable of caring for their child. Guardianships of the estate applies to minors receiving a large sum of money, such as an inheritance or life insurance proceeds. The law often requires the appointment of a guardian to collect these funds and the Court monitors their use.
Please contact us for additional information as to when a Conservatorship or Guardianship might be necessary or helpful.