Guardianships and Conservatorships
A legal guardian is someone who is appointed by a court to make decisions about the care and protection of an individual who is determined to be incompetent. Only a judge can make the determination that someone is incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves. A court appointed guardian can protect children, adults incapacitated by illness or injury, and elderly adults incapable of making decisions for themselves. The intent is for the individual to maintain as much independence as possible while still having their basic rights protected and needs met by an individual who is deemed responsible and capable of caring for the incapacitated person. Children may need a guardian in situations where their parents are unable to care for them. A guardian is scrutinized by the court for their fitness to serve, and any other parties interested in the protection of the incapacitated person may participate in the court proceedings. The hope is that with the assistance of a guardian or conservator, the individual will be safe from exploitation or unsafe choices.
Obviously, the right to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of someone else is something that could be easily abused. That’s why this process must be ordered, approved, and monitored by the court. In most situations, a trusted family member serves as guardian or conservator. If there are no eligible family members, a professional guardian steps in.
If you need help navigating guardianship and conservatorship options for a loved one, we’re here to help. Call Barney McKenna & Olmstead at 435-628-1711 to set up a consultation with our team in St. George, Utah, or Mesquite, Nevada.
Why Guardianships and Conservatorships Are Necessary
These options exist to meet the needs of at-risk individuals in unusual circumstances. Guardianships, for example, often meet the needs of children without parents or children with parents who cannot safely care for them. This legal option ensures that children get the protections that children with involved parents already have, setting them up for a safe future and giving them the emotional support of a family.
Guardianships protect the rights and needs of adults with special needs or limitations while protecting their dignity. A conservatorship protects the financial assets of the individual and ensures that their money is correctly handled. These individuals typically have assets in bank accounts or other holdings and may own real property. They may receive government benefits that must be properly used or spent. Unfortunately, these individuals are also often targeted by scammers and those who would take advantage of their limitations. Under a guardianship and conservatorship, an individual has protection of their assets and the assurance that their day-to-day needs are met including medical care and a safe place to live.
The Differences Between Guardianships and Conservatorships
The primary difference between these options is the population each serves. Guardianships are generally used for children who need care until they become adults. Guardians make decisions about the child’s medical care, education, and living arrangements.
A guardian and conservator is generally appointed for adults with significant physical or mental limitations and is a means to protect both the individual and their assets. Depending on the needs of the individual, guardianships and conservatorships may be permanent or temporary.
There are exceptions to both of these general definitions, of course, so it’s best to discuss your options with a guardianship and conservatorship attorney.
Termination of Guardianships and Conservatorships
In some situations, these arrangements are only temporary. If an individual’s incapacitation is the result of a temporary medical condition, the court may opt to return legal decision-making authority to the individual upon their recovery. In the states of Utah and Nevada, the law prefers giving individuals as much independence as possible and limiting their rights only to the extent that it’s absolutely necessary. Our attorneys can help you navigate this transition when the time comes.
Guardianship and Conservatorship Disputes
These are very sensitive legal matters, and it’s not unusual for bitter fights to break out. If an individual’s family members believe that they require a conservatorship but the individual does not, the legal battle that ensues can cause permanent damage to a family. An attorney can help parties to these cases best present their case and their concerns.
Guardianships can also cause significant damage to family relationships. Should a child be orphaned or have parents that are incapable of taking care of them, other family members or outside advocacy groups may have strong opinions about whom the child should live with, what values they should have, and how they should be raised.
Our team of guardianship attorneys works to resolve these issues in a way that best meets the individual’s needs while preserving the family relationship.
How Barney McKenna & Olmstead Can Help
If a loved one needs the support and protection of a conservatorship or guardianship, it can be overwhelming to know what you should do next. Since guardianships and conservatorships do take away others’ rights to some extent, there is a substantial amount of work that must be done to provide the court with the documentation that is required. Furthermore, your work as guardian or conservator will be heavily supervised by the court to ensure that you are acting in the individual’s best interests.
With the help of Barney McKenna & Olmstead, you can get the guidance you need to move forward with a guardianship or conservatorship. Whether you seek to establish a guardianship, modify it, or terminate it completely, we’ll explain your options and the possible outcomes of each one.
Schedule Your Consultation Now
Our goal is to work alongside you to do what is best for your loved one. Set up a meeting now by reaching out online or calling us at 435-628-1711. We have guardianship attorneys in our St. George, Utah, and Mesquite, Nevada, offices standing by when you and your family needs help. Our attorneys are also licensed in Arizona, California, and Washington.