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Conservatorship vs. Guardianship in Illinois | What is the Difference Between a Guardian and a Conservator?

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 1, 2019

In this article, we’ll explain the difference between conservatorship and guardianship.

Guardianship is established when a child is removed from the care of his or her parents, and the responsibility of the child’s care is given to another individual. The transfer of guardianship could occur for several different reasons, including the inability to financially support a child. A guardian is legally responsible for taking care of a child and making decisions that can affect their mental and physical health, such as medical care, counseling, and therapy. Guardians are required to provide shelter, nourishment, protection, and a proper education to their dependents. A guardian can be responsible for a child or an incapacitated adult.

Conservatorship, on the other hand, refers to the responsibility of another individual’s estate. Unlike a guardian, a conservator only controls the finances and possessions of an incapacitated or disabled individual. Conservators are not responsible for the health and wellness of the individual themselves, but paying bills, selling and buying stocks, and managing rental properties. The individual receiving care or financial assistance is often referred to as a “ward.”

Typically, guardianship applies to minors under the age of 18, and conservatorship refers to elderly or mentally disabled persons who are not capable of making effective financial decisions for themselves. To establish conservatorship, the conservator must file a petition with a court. The conservator is required to prove the mental incapacitation of the disabled individual, such as medical records, for example. If the judge is convinced that the individual cannot, in fact, delegate how his or her money should be spent, the ward’s estate will be placed under the control of the conservator.

One person can act as both a guardian and a conservator for one ward. If a ward has two different people acting as his or her guardian and conservator, the conservator ultimately holds more power over the ward’s life and estate. Conflicts between the two duties can be mediated in court, and a judge, who would determine an appropriate course of action in the ward’s best interests, will guide those rulings.


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Conservatorship vs. Guardianship in Illinois | What is the Difference Between a Guardian and a Conservator?

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