The terms guardianship and conservatorship are both ways for a family member to gain control over the affairs of an incapacitated loved one. Each state has its own laws governing which term is used and how they apply. In New York, guardian is the preferred term for a caretaker, and the system recognizes different types of guardianship based on the extent of the guardian’s powers.
What Kind of Guardianship Do I Need for an Incapacitated Relative?
Guardianships are court proceedings where a person is appointed as a caretaker for an incapacitated adult (the ward). Guardianships are often needed to prevent financial and physical abuse from family members or other parties—especially if the ward did not create durable powers of attorney when they were still lucid.
Since the court’s goal is to preserve as much of a ward’s autonomy as possible, New York law bases each type of guardianship on different aspects of a ward's life:
- Guardian of the person. As guardian of the person, you would have the right to care for and protect your ward’s health. This includes making decisions about the ward’s health care, living situation, education, nutrition, and life-and-death medical choices.
- Guardian of the property. As guardian of the property, you would be able to handle the ward’s financial matters, including making decisions about the ward's investments, paying their bills, filing taxes, managing assets, collecting income, and accessing bank accounts. All guardians of the property are required to keep detailed financial records and file annual reports about the ward’s property with the court.
- Guardian of the person and property. Also called a plenary guardian, a guardian of the person and property has control over both the ward's day-to-day health and the ward's finances.
If you need help protecting a loved one, the elder law attorneys at Landskind & Ricaforte Law Group, P.C., can advise you on your options. Simply fill out our quick contact form or call us today to learn more about what we do.