Michigan residents who are taking care of an elderly parent or other relative may at some point need some legal documentation in order to continue meeting their loved ones’ needs. Usually what is required is either a guardianship or a conservatorship, and sometimes a hybrid of both will best serve your purposes.

Which one will I need to get?

It depends upon your relative’s circumstances and your role in assisting him or her. Guardianships allow you to manage the physical needs of an incapacitated individual once he or she no longer can handle his or her activities of daily living (ADL). This might be necessary if an elderly person can no longer prepare his or her own meals and get him or herself dressed and to and from the bathroom, etc.

Alternatively, obtaining a conservatorship over your incapacitated relative gives you the authority to manage his or her estate and all of his or her finances. It’s not always appropriate to have the same individual oversee both the physical and fiscal needs of an incapacitated individual, although it may be perfectly fine for one person to wear both hats.

Why would two people be needed?

The short answer is that not all people have the same skill sets. For instance, one relative may be able to reconcile a bank account down to the penny each month and knows a lot about investments and money management. But he or she might recoil at the prospect of dealing with the intimate aspects involved with the someone’s care, e.g., bathing and diapering.

Under those circumstances, it may be wiser to select two people to oversee the disparate tasks involved with a guardianship and conservatorship. But there is still another reason why someone might want another individual like an estate planning attorney to manage his or her loved one’s financial affairs.

Appointing an independent third-party as conservator removes the appearance of impropriety that the person with guardianship over the incapacitated person is profiting from access to the estate. This is a good choice in families where two or more of the heirs are not in accord with the management of their relative’s affairs.

Conservators answer to the Michigan courts

Conservators appointed by the court are under its supervision. Annually, the case is reviewed, and if there are financial discrepancies or shoddy record-keeping, the conservator can be removed from that role by the court.

Source: FindLaw, “What Is a Conservatorship? 5 Basic Questions,” Daniel Taylor,, accessed Dec. 20, 2017