Adult guardianship is sometimes called a conservatorship. In either instance, the conservator is responsible for the care of their conservatee. This is prompted when an individual becomes incapacitated and has not made prior arrangements such as durable power of attorney or advance health care directives. As with any other legal area lacking in clarity, guardianship is established by the courts.
In many instances, the courts will appoint close family members to assume the duty of a guardian. It may be the conservator of the estate who handles financial matters or the guardian of the person who makes medical and personal decisions. In the majority of cases, the same individual takes on both responsibilities. If any appropriate family member is unavailable, the court has the authority to hire a guardian. Appointed guardians will require payment for their services, something that most family members will decline.
Because guardians are serving at the courts discretion, the courts require periodic accounting of all transactions related to the estate. This is a safeguard for the assets of the conservatee. The guardian is also required to seek any available assistance for their charge. Commonly this will include disability benefits, Social Security or medical benefits. Courts often require that adult guardians seek prior approval before disposing of any substantial assets or discontinuing life support.
In some cases, the guardian may resign their duties creating a need for a new guardian. More frequently, the guardianship ends when the incapacitated party either sufficiently recovers or dies. In the case of financial conservatorships, the position naturally ends when the assets are completely depleted.