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The difference between guardianships and conservatorships

The dramatic advancement of modern medicine has led to longer life spans for many people in Florida. Unfortunately, the advances in ways to treat Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia have not kept pace with advances in the care of physical ailments. As more and more elderly people in the United States require assistance in making health-related and financial decisions, the presence of guardians and conservators in legal matters has increased. Many people may be interested in the differences between guardianships and conservatorships.

When an adult is not capable of making sound decisions, the court will appoint an appropriate person or people to assist that person in decision making. The roles of a guardian and a conservator generally go hand-in-hand and often are assigned to the same person. However, there is a distinct difference between the two.

A guardian is someone who is able to make health-related and other personal decisions for someone whom a court has deemed incapacitated or incompetent. Though often a person only has one guardian, there can be multiple guardians if the court deems it necessary. Typically, a guardian will decide a person's living arrangements, put safety precautions into place and make decisions about medical treatments.

On the other hand, a conservator is one or more persons who is legally able to make financial decisions on behalf of an incompetent or incapacitated person. In this role, a conservator could management a person's assets, bank accounts or investments. They could also assist a person with estate management, including paying bills and collecting debts.

It is possible to have a say in whom the court designates as a person's conservator or guardian if the time comes. However, if a person has not designated someone for these roles in a living will or power of attorney, the court will have the power to assign whomever it deems fit. A Florida attorney who is experienced in setting up guardianships and conservatorships will be in the best position to assist a client in ensuring that his or her goals are met.

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