A overview of the basics
Guardianship and conservatorship are legal arrangements for persons who have been found to be incapacitated in a judicial proceeding. Per Virginia Code Section 64.2-2000, a person is incapacitated when he or she “has been found by a court to be incapable of receiving and evaluating information effectively or responding to people, events, or environments to such an extent that the individual lacks the capacity” to care for himself or herself, or manage their own finances.
A guardianship involves appointment of a guardian for an incapacitated person (often referred to as the “ward”) who:
…is responsible for the personal affairs of an incapacitated person, including responsibility for making decisions regarding the person’s support, care, health, safety, habilitation, education, therapeutic treatment, and, if not inconsistent with an order of involuntary admission, residence. (Virginia Code Section 64.2-2000)
Once appointed, the guardian will have the legal authority to make decisions for the ward with regard to the ward’s health and regular care. A guardianship can be limited or temporary if the circumstances that gave rise to the ward’s incapacity do not warrant a ‘full’ guardianship.
A conservatorship involves appointment of a conservator to manage the “estate and financial affairs” of an incapacitated person. Like a guardianship, it may be limited in scope or temporary if the circumstances warrant. While the conservator has the authority to manage the finances of the ward, typically the conservator will be required to make regular reports to the Commissioner of Accounts for the jurisdiction where he or she was appointed. These reports include an initial inventory outlining all of the assets of the estate. It also includes regular accountings which show expenditures made on the ward’s behalf and disposition of income of the ward’s estate.