It seems that oftentimes people refer to Arizona guardianships when what they mean to refer to is Arizona conservatorships. Other times, people will use the two words interchangeably, as if there are no differences between Arizona guardianships and Arizona conservatorships. The truth is, however, that while Arizona guardianships and Arizona conservatorships share certain similarities, they are used for two very different reasons.
As to the similarities, both Arizona guardianships and Arizona conservatorships are used to protect an individual who has lost the legal capacity to act safely for him or herself. It could be that this incapacity stems from a serious automobile accident, substance abuse, or even just the aging process. If after holding a hearing the court finds incapacity, it will appoint a guardian or conservator to act on behalf of the incapacitated person. Once a guardian or conservator is appointed to act for that person, the guardian or conservator has legal authority to fulfill its court appointed powers on the incapacitated person’s behalf.
The authority given under Arizona guardianships and Arizona conservatorships is where the two really begin to differ. Arizona guardianships are established primarily so a guardian can manage an incapacitated person’s health and placement decisions, as well as mental health decisions in certain instances. Arizona conservatorships, on the other hand, are established primarily so a conservator can manage an incapacitated person’s legal and financial affairs.
It is possible for the court to appoint the same person to act as both the guardian and conservator, but it does not always do so. Sometimes the court appoints one person to act as guardian and another to act as conservator. Likewise, there are times in which the court appoints only a guardian or only a conservator. The point to all of this is that Arizona guardianships and Arizona conservatorships, while sometimes talked about interchangeably, are actually two very distinct matters.