Guardianships and conservatorships are often confused, and not surprisingly, people have a number of questions about what each is and how they work. Here is a look at some of the most frequently asked questions regarding conservatorships and guardianships.
What is a Guardian? What is a Conservator?
Guardians are appointed by the court to primarily handle healthcare and non-monetary decisions for a person who is unable to make these important decisions due to an illness, injury, or disability. Conservators are also appointed by the courts to handle a person’s finances when they are unable to make their own decisions due to an illness, injury, or disability.
What Types of People Need a Guardian?
Anyone who is over the age of 18 and suffers from physical illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability are the primary people who need a guardian. People who are older, have a chronic problem with drugs or alcohol, or are in a position where they lack understanding or the capacity to make responsible decisions regarding their own personal affairs — and haven’t already prepared legal documents to appoint an agent — are also people who may need a guardian.
Can Someone Be Both a Guardian and a Conservator? Who Does the Court Typically Appoint?
Yes. The court can appoint the same person to be the guardian and conservator if the judge feels it is appropriate. They also have the right to appoint two different people.
When the court is looking to appoint either a conservator or a guardian, the first choice is a close family member, preferably a spouse or domestic partner, adult child, or parent. If there is no close family member available, or they are not suitable, the court will then look to other family members or friends. If there is still no suitable party, the court will typically appoint a neutral attorney who has special training to handle these types of matters.
Is There a Negative to Being Appointed a Guardian or Conservator?
You do need to give it some thought before agreeing. While it ensures your loved one’s best interests are being protected, the position comes with a lot of responsibility. You become an officer of the court and are required to submit regular reports to the judge. The appointment may last for the remainder of the person’s life, depending on the circumstances. It’s a very important role, so you should only take it on if you are 100 percent sure you can do the job.
How Does a Conservatorship end?
If the conservatorship is for a minor and the minor reaches the age of majority, or if the person’s capacity changes, or he or she passes away, the conservator is required to notify the courts by filing a final accounting along with specific forms. If the conservatorship is ending due to the ward’s death, then you will be required to have a death certificate. The court will then make a determination based on the individual facts.
Retaining a South Carolina Attorney
If you have questions regarding guardians or conservators, you need to speak with a skilled Greenville attorney who handles these difficult situations. Elliott Frazier Law Firm specializes in elder law and guardianships and conservatorships. Contact us online or call our office at 864-256-3553.
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.