Should Your Plan for Guardianship or Conservatorship?

Facing the need for
guardianship or conservatorship can be a deeply emotional and complex journey for families. It often arises from circumstances that involve significant life changes, such as the loss of a parent or the realization that a loved one can no longer manage their own care due to incapacity.

These legal measures, while designed to protect and provide for the vulnerable, bring with them a weight of responsibility and the challenge of navigating a legal system during what is already a difficult time. Expanding your understanding of these processes, their differences, and the critical role they play in safeguarding the well-being and assets of those unable to care for themselves will help your family make the right choice.


Legal Framework and Process: Guardianship is anchored in the California Probate Code, designed to protect minors whose parents can no longer care for them due to various reasons, including death or incapacity. Initiating guardianship involves a court petition, often by a relative or close friend, leading to an evaluation of what’s best for the child. California recognizes two types of guardianship: of the person and of the estate, each addressing different aspects of the minor’s life and assets.

Responsibilities: A guardian of the person is tasked with making critical decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and general welfare, ensuring a stable and nurturing environment. On the other hand, guardians of the estate manage the minor’s financial affairs, safeguarding and utilizing assets in the child’s best interest until they reach adulthood.


Legal Framework and Process: Conservatorship, while also governed by the California Probate Code, serves adults who are incapacitated due to physical or mental health issues. It necessitates a judicial process where a conservator is appointed to make personal and/or financial decisions on behalf of the adult. Similar to guardianship, conservatorship is divided into the conservatorship of the person and the conservatorship of the estate, addressing care and financial management, respectively.

Responsibilities: Conservators of the person ensure the conservatee’s basic needs for health and safety are met, while conservators of the estate handle financial obligations and planning, ensuring the conservatee’s assets are properly managed and protected.

Key Differences and Considerations

Age and Capacity: Guardianship is applicable to minors, whereas conservatorship addresses the needs of incapacitated adults.

Voluntariness: Adults under conservatorship may not have willingly relinquished their autonomy, contrasting with minor guardianship, which does not require the child’s consent.

Protection and Oversight: Both arrangements offer legal protection and require court oversight to ensure the guardians or conservators fulfill their duties effectively. However, the underlying reasons for their establishment vary significantly.

Termination: While guardianship generally concludes when a minor reaches 18, conservatorship lacks a fixed end date, continuing as long as the adult’s incapacity persists.

Discussing Options with Professionals

Guardianship and conservatorship play pivotal roles in the legal system’s provision of care and protection for those unable to make decisions for themselves. Understanding when and how each applies is crucial for families facing these challenges. Whether protecting the interests of a minor or ensuring the well-being of an incapacitated adult, these legal tools provide essential mechanisms for oversight and support.

If you’re considering guardianship or conservatorship as a means to protect a loved one, connect with the team at Hedtke Law Group. Our experienced team is dedicated to providing compassionate, comprehensive legal support tailored to your unique situation. Contact us today by calling 909-579-2233 to schedule a consultation and explore how we can assist you in this critical endeavor, ensuring the safety and security of those who matter most.