Dustin Noble

Hopkins & Huebner

Adel Office

Guardianships and Conservatorships for Adults with Health Problems

Many people struggle to let go of power and authority.  For those that are able to let go, a common denominator typically exists in that the person letting go of the power and authority almost always trusts the person who is receiving that power and authority.  The same can be said regarding voluntary guardianships and conservatorships.

Guardianships and conservatorships are legal relationships established by a court that allow the person appointed as guardian and/or conservator to make decisions for that person, known as the ward.  A guardian is responsible for the personal affairs of the ward, whereas a conservator is responsible for the financial affairs of the ward.  These court-established relationships are crucial for numerous people in various situations.  This article focuses on adults who have health problems affecting their ability to handle their own affairs. 

Generally, there are two methods of establishing a guardianship or conservatorship.  One method involves the proposed ward voluntarily seeking the establishment of the guardianship or conservatorship.  With a voluntary guardianship or conservatorship, the proposed ward commonly names who he or she would like to serve as guardian and/or conservator.  The second method involves the involuntary establishment of a guardianship or conservatorship, where the proposed ward does not consent, or lacks the ability to consent, to the establishment of such a relationship. 

As you might guess, the process of establishing a voluntary guardianship or conservatorship is typically smoother than the establishment of an involuntary guardianship or conservatorship.  However, in order to establish a voluntary guardianship or conservatorship, the person giving up the power has to accept the idea that he or she may be unable to handle his or her own affairs now or in future.

For example, if a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, the loved one’s ability to handle his or her own affairs could diminish in the future.  Discussing this possibility and taking steps to prepare for it, including the option of voluntarily establishing a guardianship and conservatorship, could help avoid a difficult situation in the future if the loved one’s condition worsens and he or she becomes combative or non-cooperative.  A guardianship or conservatorship could still be established at that point, but it would likely be involuntary, which could take more time and effort to establish.  Acknowledging these potential issues and acting accordingly could lead to an easier transition in the future.  If you or a loved one may need a guardian and/or conservator in the near future, a consultation with an attorney would be beneficial.

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