Understanding Legal Guardianship and Conservatorship

It can often be scary when you find yourself in a situation where you need to look into legal guardianship and conservatorship options. You might be the parent of an adult child who, due to physical or mental disability, will require ongoing care past the point that you can provide it. Or you might have an elderly relative who is dealing with dementia and needs someone to be responsible for his or her physical and financial care.

It’s also possible that a minor child’s parents have died, been sentenced to prison, or are otherwise unavailable or unfit to care for their child. In most cases, when you have a family member that is unable to care for him or herself, you will need to think about either guardianship or conservatorship. How do you know which option is right for you? First, it’s important to understand the differences between the two legal terms.

Legal Guardianship vs. Conservatorship

What is the difference between legal guardianship and conservatorship?

Legal Guardianship

Legal guardianship is when a court orders someone other than a minor child’s parent to have custody of the child, manage the child’s property (called “estate”), or both. In a guardianship of the person, the guardian has the same responsibilities to care for the child as a parent would. That means the guardian has full legal and physical custody of the child and can make all the decisions about the physical care of the child that a parent would make. A guardian can be anyone: relatives, friends of the family, or other people suitable to raise the child can ask to be legal guardians.


A conservatorship, on the other hand, is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organization (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for him- or herself or manage his or her own finances. There are varying degrees of conservatorships depending on the conservatee’s needs.

If you are considering these options for a loved one, then you may want to turn to the help of Family Law Legal Group for help. We have a variety of programs that will help you make these arrangements and take care of the legal guardianship or conservatorship documents that are required.

Considerations for Informed Decision-Making

Sometimes there is a disagreement among family members about what is in the person’s best interest. Are you, as well as others in the family, seeking custody of a child whose parents are unable to care for them? Maybe you are looking for the right person to handle your elderly family member’s financial needs but you and your siblings just can’t agree on one person. Keep these considerations in mind:

      • Has the individual (or the parent of a minor child) previously chosen or asked someone to serve in this capacity? If the person in charge of the minor child or conservatee has asked someone to take over their duties, then that is the person who should be appointed, unless circumstances have changed.
      • Is the potential guardian/conservator able to manage his or her own finances without any problems? You won’t want to ask someone who is deeply in debt or otherwise unable to handle their own finances to manage someone else’s.
      • Is the person in good health? Whether it’s a child who has lost his or her parents or an adult who needs extra help, the person who will be overseeing them should be in good enough mental and physical health to manage the extra duties.
      • Does the person know the ward well enough to make decisions for them? It’s difficult to ask a virtual stranger, even if related by blood, to take on the task of raising a child or managing the financial and legal matters of an elderly or otherwise incapacitated family member.

Our Comprehensive Resources

Legal Guardianship Appointing

We can help explain the process of appointing a guardian for your minor children, either because you are going to be unable to care for them shortly or because you want to arrange for their care in the event of your unexpected death.

Conservatorship Appointing

If you have a family member who is unable to care for him- or herself, we can help you understand why and how to get a conservator to handle their personal, financial, and legal matters.

Our information covers all 50-states and we have professionals nationwide. 

Talk to us about what you need in terms of choosing and appointing a conservator or guardian for your loved one, and we’ll make sure you are connected to the professionals who can help. Family Law Legal Group offers legal advocacy for people just like you.

Get the Help You Deserve!

Get the help you deserve by completing the form below. 

Do you need help with divorce?*
Do you need help with child custody?*
Do you need help with child support?*

By submitting my information, I agree that Family Law Rights and its attorney network may contact me by phone, message, and/or via text message and email at the phone number and email I provided. This is a free service. I understand that consent is not a condition of purchase. Family Law Rights does not charge you for sending or receiving text messages.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.