How guardianship or conservatorship helps elders

On Behalf of | Sep 16, 2022 | Elder Law

As you get older in life, you might decide that it’s time to execute an estate plan or, at least, start having some discussions about your desires or needs regarding financial matters, your assets or health care issues. You might have an adult son or daughter who helps you with such matters, but it’s also a good idea to seek outside support, as needed, especially if legal issues arise.

You might be one of many elders in Illinois who worry about the possibility of becoming incapacitated. Not only might you not be able to live independently, but you might also not be able to act on your own behalf to make decisions regarding finances or health care. It is helpful to think ahead and prepare as much as possible, such as by setting up a guardianship or conservatorship.

Allocate decisions to someone you trust

One of the benefits of signing a guardianship or conservatorship document ahead of time is that it gives you a chance to choose someone you trust to step in and make decisions on your behalf if your health deteriorates or a sudden incident occurs to cause incapacitation. One can format such documents in a conditional manner, meaning that the instructions in the document take effect after meeting certain conditions.

You can speak with your spouse, if he or she is still living, as well as your adult children, a financial advisor or even your primary care physician to discuss what specific conditions you wish to incorporate into your plan.

Guardianship versus conservatorship

While it might seem that these two terms are interchangeable, there are, in fact, differences between them. A conservatorship typically refers to a person granted authority to make financial decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person. A guardian, on the other hand, is able to act on a ward’s behalf in all matters, including medical issues, finances and more.

A ward is a person who has been legally entrusted to the care of a guardian. This might be your own son or daughter or spouse but could also be someone to whom you have no legal or biological relation.

The court can appoint someone to act on your behalf

If you do not have an estate plan in place, and the situation merits it, the court can intervene and appoint someone to make financial or health decisions on your behalf. Certain restrictions apply to the guidelines. For instance, the court is not likely going to appoint a guardian or conservator to make financial decisions if he or she has recently filed for bankruptcy.

It is wise to research state laws ahead of time, before signing any documents regarding guardianships or conservatorships. The idea is to execute a plan that gives you peace of mind and helps you to accomplish your estate planning goals.


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NELF | National Elder Law Foundation
CAP | Council of Advanced Practitioners | NAELA | National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc.
Illinois State Bar Association