What Is the Difference Between Guardianship and Conservatorship in Minnesota?

What Is the Difference Between Guardianship and Conservatorship

Guardianships and conservatorships result from a court determining that somebody needs help managing their financial or personal affairs. A court typically reserves these measures for situations where the individual cannot make rational decisions due to a physical or mental impairment.

Guardianships and conservatorships aim to protect people by appointing a trusted person to manage their sensitive financial or personal affairs. Here, we will explain what each one covers, how to get one, and how to remove a guardianship or conservatorship in Minnesota.

Guardianship in Minnesota

Guardianship in Minnesota

Guardianship cases are usually handled in probate court, but could involve family law, especially in the case of a minor. Courts can appoint a guardian for people who cannot understand the scope of personal decisions, lack the ability to communicate with them, or cannot manage their basic needs. 

These individuals are usually minors or adults incapacitated by a physical or mental condition. In some cases, Minnesota courts will mandate guardians for at-risk juveniles between 18 and 21 years. A court appoints a guardian to make personal decisions for the protected person. They can determine where the protected person resides and handle decisions about medical care.

Responsibilities of the Guardian

Guardians are responsible for the protected person’s personal care, including making sure they have adequate food, clothing, and shelter. Under Minnesota law, guardians must complete other duties annually, including:

  • Note the date of appointment and every anniversary date after that.
  • Complete the annual forms packet within thirty days of the anniversary date.
  • File the original copy of the annual forms packet with the court and submit copies to the protected person and all parties listed on the court record.

Given the legal complexity of the annual forms packet, it’s in any guardian’s best interest to seek legal counsel for assistance.

How Conservatorship Differs

A conservatorship is similar to a guardianship, but in this case, the court appoints somebody to handle the financial affairs for the protected person. The conservator would be able to pay bills, make investments, and even enter contracts for the protected person.

Responsibilities of the Conservator

Like guardianship, Minnesota requires conservators to complete specific tasks yearly. 

  • File a complete inventory report within 60 days of the initial appointment.
  • Fill out and file the annual accounting report within 60 days of the anniversary date.
  • Complete the requisite annual notice and affidavits within 30 days of the anniversary date.
  • Submit the originals to the court and send copies to the protected person and any parties listed on the court order.

Conservators have several forms to complete, and they deal with sensitive information. It’s a good idea to keep copies of all relevant information and contact an experienced attorney to assist you throughout the process.

Why Someone Might Need a Guardian or Conservator

Several circumstances could cause a court to grant a guardianship or conservatorship order for a protected person. 

  • Cases of debilitating illness or injury, like a stroke, coma, or the advanced stages of dementia.
  • A court finds that somebody lacks the mental capacity to make important personal decisions.
  • Minors whose parents are deceased.
  • Older juveniles with a history of at-risk behaviors and juvenile crimes.

Courts do not make these decisions lightly, involving a hearing to review the argument for guardianship or conservatorship.

How to Obtain Guardianship or Conservatorship in Minnesota

Somebody must petition the court to establish an order of guardianship or conservatorship. The petitioner must prove to the court that the protected person cannot sufficiently manage their own affairs. Minnesota laws require that you demonstrate that the less restrictive options are insufficient support for the protected person.

Suppose you are seeking a guardian or conservator for somebody. In that case, it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel to help you through the process and ensure you provide the necessary documentation to secure the appropriate order.

Removing or Terminating a Guardianship or Conservatorship

There are a few circumstances that would require removing or terminating a guardianship or conservatorship. 

  • The order ends with the protected person’s death.
  • If the protected person becomes capable and proves capability to the court, they can terminate the guardianship or conservatorship.
  • Should the guardian or conservator pass away, the court would appoint a new one.

Finally, the protected person or a third party can petition for removal if they feel that the guardian or conservator is abusing their position or failing to perform appropriately. In these cases, the court would hear the evidence and remove and replace the guardian or conservator if they agree.

Alternatives to a Guardianship or Conservatorship

Guardianships and conservatorships can be a lot for the protected person and those managing their personal decisions. If these options seem too involved for your needs, there are a few alternatives to consider.

  • Revocable living trusts appoint somebody to manage financial affairs.
  • Durable power of attorney is a common option that allows one person to appoint a trusted person with the power to make financial decisions on their behalf.
  • Health care directives are increasingly popular as individuals assign somebody to make decisions about their health care, like whether or not to remain on life support.

Hire an Experienced Legal Professional

Hire an Experienced Legal Professional

Navigating the guardianship and conservatorship processes can be challenging. From the initial petition through the court hearings and, ultimately, the annual reports, it’s a lot to manage. Hiring an experienced legal professional to guide you through the process is in your best interest. Contact CJB Law today, so we can help you decide on the best course and guide you every step of the way.