What Is Financial Guardianship?

It is easy to take for granted your ability to make your own decisions and handle your own finances. If you become sick or disabled, you may lose your mental and physical capabilities. A financial guardianship is a legal relationship whereby a competent person -- the financial guardian or conservator -- handles the finances of the incapacitated person -- the conservatee.


Legal conservators, also known as financial guardians or guardians of the estate, help manage a person’s assets and finances. The conservator’s authority does not rise automatically; in general, a person must become physically or mentally incapacitated such that he can no longer manage his own finances. Conservators owe specific obligations to the conservatee. Specifically, the conservator must act in the best interests of the conservatee by making sound financial decisions, avoiding commingling funds and keeping accurate inventories of the conservatee’s assets.

Appointment Process

State probate courts generally have jurisdiction over conservatorship matters. If someone needs a conservator, a petitioner can file the appropriate forms and paperwork with the probate court. According to ExpertLaw, the petitioner is usually related to the conservatee or serving the conservatee in some capacity, such as a nurse at a senior care facility. The court may require evaluations of the conservatee; the court must issue letters of authority before a person can act as a conservator.

Naming a Conservator

The conservatee may have little or no say in who is appointed to act as a conservator if the matter proceeds according to the probate court’s involuntary appointment process. A person may, however, create legal documents that name a person to act as conservator if the conservatee becomes unable to manage his finances. Through a will, power of attorney over finances, trust or other estate planning document, a person can control who his conservator will be.

Other Issues

Conservators must be financially responsible and willing to accept responsibility to act in that capacity. If someone names a person to act as conservator, that person may refuse the position, in which case the appointment process would begin. In general, a conservatorship does not end until the conservatee recovers or the court terminates it.