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Guardianship/Conservatorship

The duties of a guardian and conservator are different.

A court appointed guardian has the legal authority to make decisions about the lifestyle and personal well-being of another person, called a ward. For example, a guardian determines where the ward will live, what care and medical treatment the ward will receive, and in what religious, social and educational activities the ward can participate.

A court appointed conservator has the legal authority to manage the ward’s financial affairs, including money, stocks and bonds, insurance policies, real estate, automobiles, furniture, jewelry, furs and art. The conservator manages the ward’s assets to take care of the ward’s expenses and liabilities. A conservator is responsible for filing the necessary tax returns on behalf of the ward.

A court appointed guardianship or conservatorship for an adult becomes necessary when the adult is not capable of handling his or her personal or financial affairs (and has not previously made other legal arrangements to do so) or becomes a danger to him or herself or others. A court appointed guardianship for a minor is usually only necessary when the minor’s parents are not available or capable of caring for the minor.

Because a minor cannot legally enter into contracts, a court appointed conservator for a minor is necessary whenever a minor has assets in his or her own name alone that require management or any contractual obligation. For example a minor cannot open a bank account in his or her name alone. If a minor is the recipient of property under a legal judgement, a conservator must be appointed for that minor to receive and invest or manage the assets and to release the creditor. A parent cannot do that on a minor’s behalf without a court appointment as conservator for amounts in excess of ten thousand dollars.

Gunderson, Denton & Peterson can assist you in all matters relating to guardianships and conservatorships for yourself or for your loved ones. Our comprehensive estate planning services in advance can reduce significantly the likelihood of ever needing a guardianship or conservatorship.

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