Legal Articles

Attorney Adam DollNew safeguards in 2020 for Guardianships and Conservatorships


Guardianships and Conservatorships have recently had substantial changes made to how they are opened and administered.  Last year the Iowa Legislature passed significant changes into law which took effect on January 1, 2020.  A guardianship can involve both minors and adults.  It is a legal relationship between a minor or an adult who needs assistance, known as a protected person, and the guardian that provides the guardian certain rights and obligations regarding the protected person.  Decisions guardians will make for a protected person involve the care, living arrangements, medical decisions and various other matters of the protected person’s life.  Likewise, a conservatorship is similar to a guardianship but instead it allows a conservator control over the financial aspects of the protected person.

The new changes have put safeguards in place for guardianships and conservatorships such as a professional evaluation of the protected person, background checks for the proposed guardian and conservator as well as more extensive initial reporting and annual reporting requirements. The changes also require that guardians and conservators be granted certain powers by court order.  Some of the items that a conservator will now need a court order authorizing is:  

  • Complete transactions at financial institutions
  • Sale of real estate or personal property
  • Pay routine expenses
  • File income tax returns

There are other items that should be included as well.  For guardianships, the additional enumerated powers should include things such as providing for the care, comfort and maintenance of the protected person, providing the appropriate training and education for the protected person, taking care of the protected person’s personal property and insuring the protected person receives necessary emergency medical services.  There are various other enumerated powers that should be included in an order for both guardianships and conservatorships.

The ultimate goal of these significant changes to the guardianship and conservatorship law is to provide greater protection to protected persons.  These changes will take more time and attention (and potential expense), but hopefully the changes will provide additional safeguards to those people that are most at risk in our population.