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What's the Difference Between a Guardianship and Conservatorship in Kansas?

Friday, July 14 2017 11:49 AM

Adults are assumed to be capable of making their own health and financial decisions unless a court determines otherwise. If a mental or physical condition renders an adult incapable of making sound decisions and acting in his or her own best interest, the court may appoint someone to make decisions on that person’s behalf.

In Kansas, a guardian is appointed to make personal and health-related decisions, while a conservator is appointed to make financial decisions.

What is a guardianship?

A guardianship is a legal relationship that gives one or more people the authority to make personal and health-related decisions on behalf of someone who is unable to (a “ward.”) A person may have more than one guardian.

In Kansas, adult individuals are only deemed in need a guardian if they are impaired AND there are no appropriate alternatives for meeting essential needs.

A guardian typically makes decisions about the ward’s health care, safety and living arrangements.The guardian may be empowered to make decisions in some areas, but not others. In Kansas, the goal is to create as few restrictions on the ward’s freedoms as possible, while still providing safety.

What is a conservatorship?

A conservatorship is a legal relationship that gives one or more people the authority to make financial decisions on behalf of someone who is unable to (a “conservatee.”)

In Kansas, adult individuals are only deemed in need a conservator if they are impaired AND there are no appropriate alternatives for managing their estate.

A person may have more than one conservator, and a corporation may serve as a conservator. The court may appoint the same person to act as both conservator and guardian, or may appoint different people to fill these roles if it determines this will best serve the interests of the individual in need.

A conservator typically manages bank accounts, investments and other similar assets. A conservator will also pay bills, obtain necessary goods or services, collect debts, and manage cash flow.

What about a power of attorney?

A durable power of attorney is a way for individuals to appoint legal agents who can make certain decisions on their behalf, should they ever become incapacitated.  In the event it is determined that an individual is in need of a guardian and/or conservator, a durable power of attorney also serves as a way for individuals to nominate the persons to serve in those roles. In Kansas, nominations made within a durable power of attorney are given priority when appointing these roles.

When appointing any guardian or conservator, including those named within a power of attorney, the court will consider if the person has the ability, suitability and background necessary to perform the required duties, and if there are any potential conflicts of interest.

The Intent of Guardianships and Conservatorships in Kansas

Guardianships and conservatorships are intended to help protect those who are unable to care for themselves or act in their own best interests. However, they may by their nature place heavy restrictions on people’s freedoms. For this reason, Kansas law states that they should only be considered as a last resort, after other less restrictive alternatives have been explored.

When a guardianship or conservatorship is granted in Kansas, it is not necessarily intended to last forever. The hope is that the person will be restored to decision-making capacity. Even when that isn’t possible, the intent is to create as few restrictions as needed to provide safety while still fostering dignity and the highest achievable level of self-sufficiency.

The general information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice. For assistance with legal issues related to guardianships and conservatorships in Kansas, contact Fleeson Gooing today.

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