Guardianships vs Conservatorships in California and Arizona

guardianships conservatorships conservator guardian ward family loved one

When someone is mentally or physically incapacitated, they may not be able to perform tasks necessary to live. When this happens, family members or friends may have the right to become a guardian or a conservator and take legal responsibility for performing personal and financial tasks for them.

Which one, guardianship or conservatorship, is right for your situation? That mostly depends on which state you live in. Because King Law Firm Attorneys at Law, Inc. practices in both California and Arizona, we’ve compiled some key similarities and differences these states have when it comes to guardianship and conservatorship.


Becoming a guardian over another person Is taking legal responsibility over day-to-day medical, educational, and personal decisions for that person because they have become physically or mentally incapacitated.

However, in California, guardianships refer to only those persons who represent the affairs of a child. When a child’s parents pass away or are no longer able to safely care for the child, a family member can assume permanent or temporary guardianship.

If petitioning for guardianship becomes combative, there are a couple of other options to guarantee a child’s safety: 1) a clear and concise private agreement can be entered into between the guardian and the parents; or 2) the guardian can present a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit, which gives the guardian legal right to make educational and medical decisions. Both alternate options can be revoked by the parents at any time.

In Arizona, guardianships are appointed for anyone, regardless of age. Guardianships can be general (covering all medical, educational, and personal decisions) or limited to a specific purpose, such as making emergency medical decisions or finding specific living arrangements. Guardian’s may also suspend a ward’s driver’s license or ability to vote.


In general, conservators provide care and protection for the ward, such as providing meals, purchasing clothes, maintaining the home and hygiene, arranging for medical care, and managing the estate. Conservatorships are not normally setup if the person in question drafted a durable power of attorney prior to becoming incapacitated.

In California, a conservatorship acts the same as a guardianship but for adults. This includes both personal and financial responsibilities. These conservatorships can be limited (usually meant for the developmentally disabled) or general (which covers all other types of mental or physical issues, such as dementia, physical injury, or those susceptible to undue influence).

In Arizona, though, a conservatorship strictly focuses on financial responsibilities, such as a person’s everyday bills or the estate, for a child or adult. There are three types of conservatorships in Arizona: General (covers all financial responsibilities), limited (covers only a select type of financial responsibility), or single transactional (covers one specific task, such as investing funds or paying taxes).

If you aren’t sure if you should take the next step, King Law Firm Attorneys at Law, Inc. can help you make the right decision for you and your loved one.

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