Closeup of a law textbook about guardianships and conservatorships

As one of Scottsdale’s leading estate planning law firms, the Bivens & Associates team gets a lot of questions about many of the finer details involved with elder law and estate planning. A common area of confusion that we hear about is understanding the differences between conservatorships and guardianships.

Both conservatorships and guardianships are valuable tools that allow for the appointment of a substitute decision-maker for minors and incapacitated adults, but they differ in several crucial ways. We’ve covered conservatorships and guardianships before, but in today’s post, we’ll focus on the key distinctions between them. For more information, or to appoint a conservator or guardian yourself, feel free to contact us at Bivens & Associates in Scottsdale. We are dedicated to giving you the resources and support you need to feel confident in all your estate planning decisions.

Your State Defines These Terms

First of all, it’s important to note that not every state defines and applies the terms “conservator” and “guardian” in the same way. There are no federally accepted legal definitions that dictate how to use and apply these concepts, so state law determines how they are applied.

In Arizona, conservatorships are granted to make financial decisions and manage the estate’s assets. Guardianships, in contrast, cover decision-making power for personal and health-related matters. For the most up-to-date information on these concepts, you can refer to resources provided by the State Bar of Arizona.

Conservatorship: For Financial and Estate-Related Decisions

A conservatorship is a state court proceeding that grants a person or entity the power to manage the financial affairs of either a minor or an incapacitated adult (known as the “protected person” in this arrangement). The appointed conservator will have all of the powers and duties of a fiduciary, and they are held to the same standard of care as a trustee. This means they must keep detailed records regarding the financial management for the protected person and always act in the best interests of their protected person.

Guardianship: For Personal and Health-Related Decisions

A guardianship is granted by the court to a person or entity to care for and make personal and health-related decisions for either a minor or an incapacitated adult (known as the “ward” in this arrangement). The appointed guardian will have many of the powers and responsibilities of a parent, making personal decisions related to living arrangements, education, health care, and social activities. For incapacitated adults, the law may permit a public fiduciary to act as a guardian, but for minors, the court generally appoints a person “whose appointment will be in the best interest of the minor” — often someone familiar to them.

Appoint a Conservator or Guardian in Arizona

Are you interested in appointing (or planning to appoint) a conservator or a guardian in Arizona? The estate planning attorneys at Bivens & Associates are here to help. We specialize in estate planning, elder care, and special needs law, so no matter the circumstances surrounding your appointment, you can be confident that we have the experience to assist.

Contact us to schedule your free estate planning consultation in Scottsdale today!