Our population is aging. According to an article published by the United States Census Bureau entitled “The Graying of America,” “In less than two decades, the graying of America will be inescapable: Older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history.”
As our loved ones age, they can develop physical or mental disabilities that may require other parties’ intervention to ensure that their personal affairs are handled responsibly so they can live out their lives comfortably. But there are legal limitations to what others can do for these individuals.
Guardianships and conservatorships offer others the legal capability to take over specific responsibilities for individuals. Both are aimed at the elderly or individuals over the age of 18 with mental or physical disabilities. Although they are similar, there are some essential key differences between the two. The primary difference is that a guardian will make decisions on behalf of the person, and a conservator will make decisions and manage the person’s finances and estate. In many cases, both the guardian and the conservator will be the same person. If you are not sure if a guardianship or conservatorship is best in your situation, call to speak with an experienced guardianship attorney today.
The courts will appoint a guardian for a person who has become incapacitated and can no longer make their own decisions. This will often happen in the case where a loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s. When a loved one is no longer able to care for themselves, an interested party will file an application and provide medical evidence that they are no longer competent to manage their own affairs.
A guardian will be responsible for acting solely and selflessly in the best interest of the person needing care. They will be responsible for decisions concerning where that person lives, their medical care and treatment, and all other daily matters in the care of that person.
The guardian is usually a spouse but can also be other family members such as a son or daughter or even a trusted family member. There are also cases where court may appoint other individuals or entities, such as lawyers, agencies, or private organizations.
A conservator acts as a guardian of the estate instead of the person and will manage their financial affairs, assets, and income. A conservatorship is typically set up for an aging family member, but a conservator may also be a friend, a lawyer, an organization, or an agency. A conservatorship does not require that the individual be incapacitated and it can be completely voluntary.
The conservator is responsible for managing a conservatee’s assets, paying for their education, support, and maintenance, paying their debts, and collecting monies that are due them. A conservator will need to file for government benefits for the individual such as Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security and will be required to prepare regular accountings of all these financial matters. The conservator will be required to participate in the estate planning for the individual but cannot write a will on their behalf.
A guardian and a conservator may be the same person. This is known as plenary guardianship. In the case where the guardian and conservator are different people, the guardian will have the primary control.
If you have more questions regarding guardianships and conservatorships, get the guidance of a skilled elder law attorney in New Jersey. For over two decades, The Matus Law Group has helped New Jersey residents create guardianships and conservatorships for their loved ones. Contact us or call us at (732) 281-0060 to get any of your questions answered.