Guardianship is a familiar concept for most people in Virginia. They know that guardianship involves an adult assuming personal responsibility for the needs of another adult because of some kind of incapacitation. A guardian can decide what medical care someone needs. They also have an obligation to help meet that person’s basic needs.
Conservatorship is something people find a little more confusing. They may assume that a guardian is a conservator or that the two serve the same role. However, a conservator is someone who performs one specific responsibility on behalf of an adult who cannot manage their own affairs.
The role of a conservator is strictly financial
Those incapacitated due to an injury or experiencing cognitive decline because of age or illness often reach a point where they can no longer manage their own finances. When someone has dementia, keeping track of when they need to pay bills and how much money they have in their bank account will become difficult, if not impossible.
A conservator manages the financial resources of those who are incapable of doing so for themselves. A conservator has a fiduciary duty to the person whose finances they manage, and the state typically requires that they obtain a surety bond to protect against the abuse of this role.
A conservator may invest assets to generate revenue or sell property to pay off creditors. They may also make financial decisions that will benefit the person subject to the conservatorship, like downsizing their home. Pursuing a conservatorship when a loved one struggles to manage their own finances can protect them and their assets against mistakes and mismanagement.