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Principled Advocacy For Families And Individuals With Disabilities And The Professionals Who Serve Them

Guardianships vs. conservatorships: understanding the difference in Illinois

On Behalf of | Oct 7, 2021 | Guardianship

If you have a loved one in your life who has special needs, you might have reached the point where you need to consider establishing a guardianship. After all, some adults have disabilities that leave them unable to make medical, financial or legal decisions in their own best interests.

With the recent high-profile case of Britney Spears in the media, you have probably also heard about conservatorships and are wondering how they differ from guardianships. Although Illinois does not offer conservatorships, it has very similar arrangements called guardianship of the estate.

The differences and similarities

Both arrangements involve the court appointing a party to make decisions on behalf of someone who has a disability. However, they have subtle but important differences, especially under Illinois law:

  • Guardianships:

While guardians can sometimes make financial decisions for the protected person, guardianships mostly involve the ward’s day-to-day personal care, medical treatment and other aspects of daily life. In Illinois, this is called person guardianship.

  • Conservatorships:

Generally, conservatorships are good fits for people who lack the capacity to make financial decisions for themselves. Illinois courts refer to conservators as guardians of the estate. The guardian of the estate can make decisions regarding a conservatee’s property, finances, taxes, business affairs and other estate concerns.

You can think of a person guardianship as affecting the care and needs of the protected person. You can think of an estate guardianship as affecting the things the ward possesses.

Which is right for my situation?

The duties you will fulfill as a guardian depend on the needs of the protected person. If you feel that your loved one needs help managing their personal care, you will need to petition the court for a person guardianship. Be prepared to get a doctor’s report that supports your reasoning for why this type of guardianship is necessary. If you believe that a guardian is necessary to protect or manage your loved one’s assets, you should seek a guardianship of estate. This also requires a detailed doctor’s report and a court petition. In some severe circumstances, the court can award both forms of guardianship.