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What is the difference between conservatorship and guardianship?

On Behalf of | Oct 27, 2023 | Guardianship & Conservatorship |

Sometimes, older adults reach a point where they can no longer act in their own best interests. Issues with their cognition or overall health prevent them from attending medical appointments, managing their household and even meeting their own basic daily needs. Even those who struggle with the tasks of daily life may refuse to recognize that they require outside help. They may begin to self-isolate to avoid drawing attention to their struggles.

Concerned family members or even professionals providing regular support to older adults sometimes feel the need to intervene. Georgia state law allows competent adults to pursue guardianship or conservatorship through the probate courts. When successful, these efforts will culminate in the courts granting one party a degree of authority over the daily life of another with a history of challenges. What is the difference between guardianship and conservatorship in Georgia?

Guardianship deals with day-to-day life

The main difference between guardianship and conservatorship is the type of authority that the courts delegate to another adult. Guardianship grants one adult authority that is similar to the parental  authority an adult would have over a minor child. It makes someone responsible for the day-to-day needs of another individual. Someone with guardianship can decide where someone lives and has a responsibility to meet their basic needs.

People used to refer to conservatorship as a guardianship of their estate. In other words, it involves someone taking control of another person’s financial resources. Those with diminished cognitive acuity may struggle to manage their financial resources even if they can still dress and feed themselves. They could forget to pay their mortgage, putting their home ownership at risk. They might spend their money frivolously without retaining enough to cover nursing home costs or other necessary expenses.

Both guardianship and conservatorship can play an important role in protecting someone during their golden years. Those pursuing either guardianship or conservatorship will usually need documentation affirming that someone has struggled to manage their own needs or financial resources.

Understanding the laws that exist for the protection of those invulnerable circumstances in Georgia may help people intervene when they recognize that a loved one has lost the ability to consistently act in their own best interests.