Chances are, your parents have always been able to make their own decisions when it comes to their medical care, finances and so on. In some cases, though, these loved ones can suffer injuries or develop illnesses that make them incapable of doing so any longer.

When faced with such circumstances, you may have a need to establish either a conservatorship or a guardianship, depending on the specifics of your loved one’s condition or situation. In some cases, you may need to establish both, and you may elect to have two different people take on these roles, or you may have one person assume the roles of both guardian and conservator.

Understanding the conservator’s role

An individual who assumes the conservator role will do so with an understanding that he or she will assume the responsibility for making finance-related decisions on another’s behalf. Typically, this means that the conservator will manage things such as bills, debts and bank accounts once an incapacitated person becomes unable to manage these affairs himself or herself.

Understanding the guardian’s role

While a conservator assumes control over another’s financial affairs, a guardian does the same for someone’s health and personal affairs. For example, the guardian may have to decide what types of medical treatments are appropriate for the incapacitated person, or it may, too, be this person’s responsibility to decide where the incapacitated party should live. New Jersey has two types of guardians: the guardian of the person, who handles life-care planning on behalf of someone else, and the guardian of the property, who handles finances and associated interests.

In some cases, guardianships can be avoidable if the party in need of a guardian is able to give someone else power of attorney before he or she becomes incapacitated. Some people find this option preferable due to the sometimes restrictive nature of guardianships.