If someone is unable to take care of their own well-being and their finances, it may be necessary to establish a guardianship and conservatorship for them.
A guardian is appointed by the court, after someone requests to be appointed, to oversee the health and well-being of an individual. On an annual basis, they will report to the court as to the status of the ward. Before a guardian can take certain steps, it is necessary for certain decisions to be approved by the court. The guardian does not handle any finances or assets for the ward.
A conservator is also appointed by the court upon request. A conservator is responsible for managing the finances of the ward, paying bills, investing and paying taxes. The conservator also has to provide on an annual basis an accounting of all income, expenses and changes in the investments of the ward.
The conservator and guardian may, but need not be, the same person. In some situations, more than one person may seek to be appointed, which may create tension and conflict in a family situation.
Establishing a conservatorship or guardianship can be time-consuming and expensive. To avoid these procedures, it is ideal to execute a power-of-attorney prior to losing your competency, which in most situations negates the need to have a guardian or conservator appointed.