The Difference Between Guardianship and Conservatorship

If you have a family member or friend who is aging or impaired and can no longer take care of their affairs, you may want to consider applying for guardianship or conservatorship. But how do you know which option is right for you, and what’s the difference under Oklahoma state law? At The Bundren Law Firm, P.C., our Tulsa family law attorney wants you to have all the facts before making this major decision. Continue reading our blog to learn more, and contact The Bundren Law Firm, P.C. for all your guardianship-related needs.

Defining Guardianship in the State of Oklahoma

Under the Oklahoma Guardianship and Conservatorship Act, someone may require a legal guardian if they are found to be mentally or physically incompetent in a court of law. Legal incompetency in the state of Oklahoma may include individuals who do not meet a “minimal level of cognitive capacity” or individuals who have been ruled as incapacitated by a medical condition or emergency under judicial determination.

A “guardian” is a court-appointed caregiver, legally obligated to take care of an incompetent or incapacitated individual’s person or property. The incompetent or incapacitated individual whose person or property the court grants guardianship over is known as a “ward.”

There are several different types of guardians in the state of Oklahoma, including:

  • General Guardian: A general guardian is responsible for all the property of the ward they are caring for and may be responsible for the ward’s person as well.
  • Limited Guardian: A limited guardian may be held responsible for some of the property of the ward they are caring for and may be responsible for the ward’s person, depending on how far the court extends their powers.
  • Special Guardian: A special guardian is appointed in emergency situations only and is rarely granted power or responsibility over a ward’s person or property for more than 30 days. A special guardian is usually appointed in cases where the imminent danger to the ward exists, or if the ward’s property is at risk of serious damage. Unlike most guardianships, the process to determine special guardships happens fast, with hearings usually set within 72 hours.
  • Guardian Ad Litem: Technically, a guardian ad litem is not considered an official guardian under Oklahoma state law. Guardian ad items are only appointed on a temporary basis to assist the court in making decisions for a ward.

Most guardianships are determined with the aid of the court and require the prospective guardian to submit a treatment plan for the prospective ward. Treatment plans require a guardian to ensure they are able to manage a ward’s finances and may require them to prove they are capable of managing the ward’s other resources as well. Once the prospective guardian has submitted a plan to the court, a proceeding will be set to determine whether the appointment of guardianship is granted, as well as any other care or treatment the prospective guardian may need to take power of in order to manage the property and/or person of the prospective ward.

Defining Conservatorship in the State of Oklahoma

Although conservatorship is similar to guardianship in that it chiefly involves one person taking power over another person’s property, there are several key differences. A conservatorship may only be appointed over someone due to physical disability. In cases where a person is found to be mentally competent, even if they are physically incompetent, a guardian will never be appointed, and conservatorship is the only option. Furthermore, a conservator is never appointed without the voluntary consent of the ward. This is an important distinction, given that, again, guardianships often involve power over a person who is mentally incompetent, and therefore unable to provide their consent. Conservatorships never involve power over a person, only a person’s property. Regardless of whether a person is physically incapacitated, they will never require a guardian so long as they are physically competent.

Hire a Family Lawyer from The Bundren Law Firm, P.C. Today

Is there someone close to you suffering from severe mental illness? Do you have a family member with a developmental disability preventing them from taking care of themselves? Has a close friend recently suffered a severe illness, leaving them mentally or physically incapacitated? Or are you concerned about an older relative with dementia or Alzheimer’s?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then guardianship may be right for you. While becoming a guardian is an emotional commitment involving complicated legal matters, The Bundren Law Firm, P.C. is here to help you navigate this intense process. With years of experience in elder law and a history of client satisfaction, Attorney Mary Bundren has the knowledge and skill you need. At The Bundren Law Firm, P.C., our approach is compassionate yet efficient, and our promise is to work towards securing every client a better future, no matter what challenges they face today.

Call The Bundren Law Firm, P.C. at (918) 992-3300 to speak to a Tulsa attorney, or contact us online to leave a message.

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