We are currently offering consultations via in-office appointment, phone, and video. Please contact us if you have any questions. Thank you!

Law Offices of James C. Shields

What Is The Difference Between A Conservator And A Guardian For Those Suffering From Alzheimer's?

Many of us will come to a point in our lives where our older loved ones will need us to care for them, much like they did for us as children. Unfortunately, Alzheimer's disease can make that care difficult and heart-wrenching. You want to do what is best for your family and the options in front of you cause many significant life-changes and the associated decisions take a lot of deep and difficult thought.

One decision that you will face is whether your family member needs a conservator, a guardian, or both. What is the difference between them? How do we know which one we'll need? Can you carry both titles? You may find yourself in a better position than others in the past if you have a dedicated and experienced attorney by your side.


A conservatorship is an appointed person or organization tasked with the responsibility to care for the finances of an incapacitated adult. A conservator can be over a person or over an estate.

A conservator over a person arranges that person's day-to-day care, living situation, healthcare, and general well-being based on their financial situation. They report the status of the person's position to a judge and can gain approval to make certain money decisions for the individual who cannot make decisions for themselves.


A guardian has direct custody over the individual and cares more for their day-to-day activities, such as what they eat, when they go to the doctor, their special needs, and shopping details rather than making large financial decisions that are best left to conservators, such as a trusted lawyer.

You have basically adopted grandma as your own and must care for all aspects of her days and nights. It's your responsibility to observe behaviors and cognitive declines. A guardian can be tasked with conservator-related decisions but if there are many assets or large amounts of money, professional conservators are essential.

It's your responsibility as a guardian to get them help if needed and to start a dialogue with other family members and concerned individuals if there comes a time when grandma has lost the full ability to care for herself on her own.

What Does Our Family Need?

What specific help does your family member need? If they are at the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, have little in the way of riches, and can still take care of their daily activities, a guardian may be appointed for the times to come. If your family member does have assets, money, and a detailed will, a conservator is necessary to manage the intricate details of these arrangements.

The same person can do both jobs if they personally feel that they are able to do so and can comprehend the intricate financial details that must be managed and arranged. Alzheimer's can affect a person slowly over the years or develop surprisingly quickly over a few months. Medication may give you more time but there isn't a cure.

The Law Offices Of James C. Shields exists to help you in these situations. We can help you decide what is right for your family and represent your interests in court. Contact us to learn more about conservatorship, guardianships, and estate planning. Our experience will provide you and your loved one with dignity and peace of mind in the days to come.