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How do a guardianship and a conservatorship differ?

Many Minnesotans who follow this blog have probably read about guardianships and conservatorships and the probate issues that can arise on account of them. However, other residents of Ramsey County might not have an exact idea of how a guardianship works.

In Minnesota, a guardianship and a conservatorship are two slightly different things. When a person, such as a minor child or an elderly relative, cannot take care of his or her own legal and financial affairs, a concerned relative or friend can ask the court to appoint either a guardian, a conservator or both. A conservator takes care of a person's property, and a guardian takes care of the person's basic living needs and physical health. They can be but need not be the same person.

Although a conservator has broad authority to handle his or her "ward's" property, that authority is not unlimited. He or she is subject to the constant scrutiny of the Minnesota courts. The courts will evaluate whether the conservator is truly acting in the best interests of the protected person rather than engaging in self-dealing or other questionable behavior.

Furthermore, a person's appointed conservator has an obligation to file an inventory detailing all of the protected person's property and assets within two months of being appointed. Thereafter, the person files an annual accounting showing the current status of the person's property. These documents are usually a matter of public record, meaning that concerned family members can review a conservator's job performance.

Of course, if a family member does identify problems with how the conservator is spending a person's money, he or she will still have to go to the Minnesota probate court supervising the case in order to get relief. This process may prove to be complicated and time-consuming without professional legal assistance.

Source:, "FAQ About Guardianship/Conservatorship," Accessed Dec. 24, 2014

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