Guardianship, Conservatorship, and How to Avoid Them

Guardians and conservators are appointed to protect a person who is unable to make decisions on his or her own. This could be either an incapacitated adult or a minor child. In Maryland, a guardian over the person is granted authority to make personal and medical decisions while a guardian of the property is authorized to make financial decisions. In the District of Columbia, a guardian over property is called a Conservator.  

The Role of a Guardian or Conservator

A guardian or conservator’s authority can be somewhat limited or quite extensive. For example, in addition to making health care decisions, a guardian may be authorized to determine whether the individual in question (who is called the “ward”) can attend social gatherings, have visitors, and more.

Who Chooses the Guardian or Conservator?

guardianshipWithout proper estate planning, the court will choose and appoint a guardian or conservator. This could be a person you would never have wanted to make important decisions on your behalf (or your children’s behalf) in the event of incapacity. The guardianship and conservatorship processes can also be expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating.

Sadly, family disputes often arise over who should be the guardian or conservator. Such conflicts can create hard feelings that last a lifetime and tear families apart. All of this, together with the fact that court-managed guardianship and conservatorship restrict or negate an individual’s right to make personal decisions, means that they should be considered only as a last resort.

How to Avoid Guardianship and Conservatorship

Powers of Attorney allow you (and, ultimately, your loved ones) to avoid the prospect of guardianship and conservatorship proceedings if you become incapacitated. A Medical Power of Attorney allows you to choose, in advance, a person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacity. A Financial Power of Attorney allows you to do the same concerning financial matters.

As for your minor children, you can ensure they will be cared for by a person you trust if something terrible happens to you and your spouse by naming a guardian and conservator in your Will.

Start Planning With the Help of an Attorney

At The Law Office of Clifford M. Cohen, our estate planning and elder law attorneys use these tools and strategies — including others — to help you avoid conservatorship and guardianship entirely. That said, if you are currently faced with a conservatorship or guardianship proceeding, we can guide you through the process while protecting your interests and those of your loved one.

We invite you to visit us for a personal meeting with our guardianship and conservatorship attorney serving the DC and Maryland area to discuss your particular needs and goals. Contact us today at 202-895-2799 for a free phone evaluation.