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Understanding conservatorship vs. guardianship

On Behalf of | Jul 19, 2023 | Guardianship

Both conservatorship and guardianship appoint someone to handle the affairs of someone else. Both are forms of legal guardianship. However, the affairs and the age of the person they are responsible for differ. Depending on the situation in Virginia, one person serving one or both roles is preferable.

What is the difference between conservatorship and guardianship?

A conservator manages the financial affairs of a minor until they turn 18 or an adult who is incapacitated in some way that prevents them from self-management. A guardian is responsible for the personal affairs of a minor or an adult, such as a minor whose parents have died or an aging parent.

A guardian is responsible for a ward of the state, whereas a conservator is responsible for the ward’s property. Someone can have both conservatorship and guardianship over someone in Virginia.

How conservatorship or guardianship is appointed

Typically, parents will write a will that designates an adult child to have legal power of attorney and act as the conservator of their assets. It is also common for parents to appoint a sibling or another relative to be the legal guardian of their children.

If the conservatorship or guardianship is not initiated by whom it serves, A Virginia resident can petition the court to be named conservator or guardian of someone else. Relatives are preferable, but if they are not the best fit for the role, the court can name non-relatives.

Setting up guardianship or conservatorship in Virginia

Appointing guardianship or conservatorship is an important part of estate planning. Each role is demanding in and of itself. You may prefer a revocable living trust and a separate conservator, depending on your investments. You can also choose to have a conservator and co-conservator, who would both have equal say in managing your financial affairs.