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How are conservatorships and guardianships different?

If they don't do so beforehand, many Middlesex residents finally get around to estate planning once they have a child. Others do so do as they age, especially if they have someone with special needs that they care for.

There are two estate planning tools called guardianships and conservatorships. They can be set up to ensure that your loved one's finances and health care are taken care of if they become unable to take care of them on their own.

Conservatorships

If an individual can no longer take care of their finances, then a New Jersey judge may appoint a conservator to handle an incapacitated or incompetent person's money matters.

Once appointed to their role, a conservator will be given oversight over their ward's investment portfolio, bank accounts and other assets. They'll be required to do whatever is necessary to ensure that an individual's property retains its value and that funds aren't frivolously spent. They'll also be placed in charge of collecting their ward's debts and paying their bills.

Guardianships

One or more guardians may be appointed to make personal decisions for an individual who the court has deemed to be incompetent or incapacitated. Once a person is named guardian, they may be asked to step in and make decisions about health-related matters, living arrangements and the safety of their ward.

It's possible for someone to select who they'd like to serve as their guardian or conservator if they were to become incapacitated or incompetent right in their will. If an individual doesn't do this, then a judge may appoint someone to that role.

If more than one person is selected to take on either one of these responsibilities, then they will generally have to reach a consensus before taking any actions. It may be possible for the same person to serve both as both conservator and guardian in some jurisdictions.

The person appointed to the role of conservator or guardian must be able to be trusted to make decisions that are in the best interest of others and not themselves. If you are planning to draft your will and you want to include who you'd appoint as your conservator or guardian in it, then an estate planning attorney can help you do just that.

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