Broadly speaking, Missouri statutes define both a guardian and a conservator as one appointed by a court to have the care and custody of the estate of a minor or a disabled person. Any number of persons or entities may be qualified to serve as a guardian or conservator, including private individuals, charitable organizations, and social service agencies. All such persons or entities must consent to act in such capacity and be appointed by the Court. Private guardianship or conservatorship arrangements are not enforceable.
The salient difference between a conservator and guardian is that a conservator is charged with the finances of a minor or disabled individual, while a guardian is charged with taking steps to promote and protect the care, comfort, safety, health and welfare of the ward (e.g., making health care decisions and making living arrangements).
A conservator’s authority is quite broad. Under Missouri law, a conservator has the power to do the following without court approval:
(1) Settle or compromise a claim against the protectee or the estate agreeing to pay or paying not more than one thousand dollars;
(2) Settle, abandon or compromise a claim in favor of the estate which does not exceed one thousand dollars;
(3) Sell, or agree to sell, chattels and choses in action reasonably worth not more than one thousand dollars for cash or upon terms involving a reasonable extension of credit;
(4) Exchange, or agree to exchange, chattels and choses in action for other such property of equivalent value, not in excess of one thousand dollars;
(5) Insure or contract for insurance of property of the estate against fire, theft and other hazards;
(6) Insure or contract for insurance protecting the protectee against any liability likely to be incurred, including medical and hospital expenses, and protecting the conservator against liability to third parties arising from acts or omissions connected with possession or management of the estate;
(7) Contract for needed repairs and maintenance of property of the estate;
(8) Lease land and buildings for terms not exceeding one year, reserving reasonable rent, and renew any such lease for a like term;
(9) Vote corporate stock in person or by general or limited proxy;
(10) Contract for the provision of board, lodging, education, medical care, or necessaries of the protectee for periods not exceeding one year, and renew any such contract for a like period;
The roles, powers, and duties of a guardian and conservator often times greatly overlap. Although there are circumstances in which one person may be able to make better guardianship decisions and another is fiscally adept to make conservatorship decisions, it is common (and usually preferable) that the same individual occupies both capacities. Rather than having two people confer and run the risk of a gridlock, one person can much more easily make decisions.
Contact us regarding guardianship and conservatorship questions.