Few things are more difficult to come to terms with than the reality that a family member is unable to manage their own finances or care for their personal needs. Whether the incapacity is physical or mental in nature, you may need to pursue a guardianship or conservatorship, or both, in order to protect your loved one.
- A Guardianship is a legal relationship that protects those who are incapable of making personal decisions about things such as where to live and how to manage their own medical care.
- A Conservatorship protects a legally incapacitated individuals' financial interests. Conservators pay the bills, and manage the finances and property of legally incapacitated individuals (also known as wards).
Often, people who are legally incapacitated due to age, dementia, physical disability, mental illness, substance abuse, or other reasons need both a conservator and a guardian. A minor child whose parents are no longer available to care for him or her also needs someone to serve in both capacities.
The same person may (but need not) serve as both guardian and conservator. Though a potential ward may petition for a conservator or guardian, it is typically a family member who identifies the need and petitions for the appointment, usually in the Probate Court for the Michigan county in which the proposed ward resides.
Trusted Guidance through the Guardianship and Conservatorship Process
There are a number of different types of guardianships and conservatorships, depending on the situation. These include:
- Full Guardian of a Minor: has care and control of the minor as much as a parent would have.
- Limited Guardian of Minor: has the care and control of the minor, but cannot consent to the marriage of the minor, the adoption of the minor or the release of the minor for adoption. A court may also place additional restrictions on the guardian depending on the circumstances.
- Conservator of a Minor: has the authority and responsibility to manage the minor's finances.
- Full Guardian of a Legally Incapacitated Adult Individual: has the care and control of the adult much as a parent would have over a child.
- Limited Guardian of a Legally Incapacitated Adult Individual: has fewer than all of the legal rights and powers of a full guardian, and whose rights, powers, and duties have been specifically enumerated by court order.
- Conservator of a Protected Individual: has the authority and responsibility to manage the adult's finances.
- Guardian of the Person: a guardian of a developmentally disabled person. Such guardians are appointed under provisions of the Mental Health Code rather than the Probate Code. This guardian has the care and control of the developmentally disabled person much as a parent would have over their child.
- Guardian of the Estate: has the same duties and responsibilities as a conservator except the ward is a developmentally disabled person. This guardian is appointed under the Mental Health Code rather than the Probate Code.
- Plenary Guardian: a guardian of a developmentally disabled person who possesses the legal rights and powers of a full guardian of the person, or of the estate, or both.
- Partial Guardian: a guardian of a developmentally disabled person with fewer than all the legal rights and powers of a plenary guardian, and whose rights, powers, and duties have been specifically enumerated by court order.
- Temporary Guardian: appointed for a temporary period of time pending a full guardianship hearing or when the appointed guardian is not performing his or her duties, and with limited powers specifically authorized by the court.
- Special Conservator: appointed to carry out the terms of a preliminary protective order, and may only do what is specified in the protective order. This type of order is used to manage a ward's finances on an emergency or temporary basis.
- Guardian Ad Litem: not a guardian in the usual sense. A guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the interest of a party in a proceeding before the court where that party is unable to adequately represent themselves. The guardian ad litem may make a recommendation to the court based upon what they believe is in the best interest of the party they represent, but has no authority to make decisions for that party. The guardian ad litem should not be confused with a guardian.
The Michigan guardianship and conservatorship process is fraught with both legal and emotional complexities. That's why it's helpful to work with a law firm you can trust, a firm that offers knowledgeable legal guidance and practical, compassionate support. Plachta, Murphy & Associates is proud to offer you comprehensive and caring service as you and your family go through these types of challenging times.
We invite you to contact Plachta, Murphy & Associates to schedule a consultation with one of our guardianship and conservatorship attorneys. We also have a Guardianship and Conservatorship Questionnaire you can fill out to return to us before or at your consultation; this will help us determine what will best meet your needs and those of your loved one.
Guardianship and Conservatorship Team: Brian J. Plachta, Bryan D. Reeder, Jeffrey M. Black, Vicki A. Poleni, MSW