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Understanding Guardianship And Conservatorship

For many people, aging results in difficulty caring for oneself and making important decisions. When someone becomes incapacitated, the court may appoint a guardian and/or conservator to handle their affairs. Read on to learn more about guardianship, conservatorship and the differences between the two.

Guardianship Basics

In Michigan, guardianship is granted by a probate court. It gives an individual’s decision-making power to another party because the individual cannot make those decisions for themselves. Guardianships are usually granted in cases where an elderly individual has lost their own decision-making capacity. However, guardianships are also granted for minors who have lost their parents or for people with mental illnesses or disabilities that affect their ability to make their own decisions.

Michigan courts take these matters very seriously because they involve vulnerable people. Guardianships are evaluated every year to ensure they continue to protect the best interests of the person under guardianship.

What Is Conservatorship?

Conservatorship is an option when the elderly or incapacitated can no longer make decisions about their own financial affairs. In Michigan, legally protected individuals may have a conservator appointed to manage their finances and estate.

A conservator is responsible for collecting, preserving and investing the legally protected individual’s property for the benefits of the person under the conservatorship and their dependents. Conservatives are considered fiduciaries and have a duty of loyalty. Conservatorships may be reviewed annually by the probate court to ensure the legally protected individual’s interests are being protected.

Guardianship Vs. Conservatorship

Conservatorship is similar to guardianship under Michigan law, with one important distinction. While guardianship controls the decision-making regarding the individual’s well-being, such as decisions about medical care, conservatorship focuses on decisions regarding the individual’s property and estate.

It is possible for one person to serve as both guardian and conservator for the same individual, or the roles may be divided. It is common for a family member or close friend to act as guardian while an attorney or trustee serves as conservator. It is wise to speak with an attorney experienced in guardianship and conservatorship about appropriate options for your loved one.

The Importance Of Experienced Counsel

Matters of guardianship and conservatorship are complex and challenging – both on a legal and a personal level. In the 50 years that our probate and estate planning attorneys have been serving the community, we have helped many families with solutions that protect their loved ones.

To discuss how we can help you and your loved ones, please contact us at 248-630-3671 to arrange a consultation. Appointments are available at our Royal Oak office, over the phone and over video conference.