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The Big Differences between Guardianships and Conservatorships

The Big Differences between Guardianships and Conservatorships

A family member or close friend who is concerned about the mental and/or physical capacity of a loved one may decide to seek a formal appointment as the person’s conservator or guardian. Dementia, Alzheimers or a serious illness are the top reasons for a guardianship or conservatorship. Additionally, if a child with special needs who turns 18 would be a candidate.


The Main Differences


In Oklahoma, a guardian can lawfully make personal and heathcare decisions.  In Oklahoma, a conservatorship is a proceeding over a person who has physical disability only, who is unable to manage property and who consents to the appointment of a conservator over his or her property.

A guardian’s authority can be general or limited. A guardian may be granted the authority to decide whether the ward (the person under the guardian’s care) can have visitors, attend events and more. The authority of being a guardian or conservator is decided by the probate courts. Family disputes may arise after a conservator or guardian is named, leading to family arguments and even litigation.


Reasons for Conservatorships


Conservatorships are initiated when the primary concerns are regarding money matters. As an example, the individual may not be able to pay their bills any longer due to a physical disability and the individual consents to the conservatorship.


Reasons for Guardianships


Guardianships may be the answer when a person loses the mental capacity to make sound decisions regarding his or her own health or safety. This person may need help deciding on living arrangements, medical treatment and personal care. A guardianship is particularly important when there is not a healthcare power of attorney on hand and no clear person’s instructions to follow.


The process of becoming a guardian or conservator is a lengthy process. The best preparation to minimize the possibility of needing a guardian or conservator is to create an estate plan that includes a power of attorney for healthcare and financial matters,  and a revocable living trust. Proper planning will help your loved ones through a difficult time while making your end of life wishes clear for everyone involved. For more information on the differences between guardianships and conservatorships, click here.