Guardians and conservators are what the law calls “fiduciaries”. Fiduciaries are persons who:
- have been given legal authority to manage and protect the interests of someone else, and
- have a legal duty to be loyal, fair and prudent in doing what is best for the protected person. The individual to be protected by a guardian or conservator is commonly called a “ward”.
- A guardian’s specific responsibility is the ward’s care, custody and control.
- A conservator’s specific responsibility is the ward’s finances, business affairs and property.
Michigan statutes allow for the appointment of a guardian or conservator for three basic types of ward:
- minors who have not attained 18 years of age
- incapacitated adults who are unable to manage their own lives or affairs due to mental or physical disability, chronic intoxication, or chronic drug use
- individuals (usually adults) with severe and chronic developmental disabilities that became apparent before they attained 22 years of age, and that substantially impair their performance of major life activities such as self-care, economic self-sufficiency, self-direction, and so forth
Proceedings for the appointment of a guardian or conservator of a minor, for an incapacitated adult, and for an individual with a developmental disability are all initiated by filing a petition in probate court (or the family division of circuit court in the case of guardians for minors.) The rules and procedures for these three different types of protective proceeding vary from one to the next, depending on the type of ward to be protected and his or her particular circumstances, but all three types of proceeding are complex and exacting. The prospect of navigating their differing procedures can be daunting for anyone not familiar with the relevant provisions of Michigan’s Estates and Protected Individuals Code an Mental Health Code, or the local rules of the court in which a given guardianship or conservatorship petition has to be filed. If you believe a loved one may need the protection of a court appointed guardian or conservator, or both, one of our experienced probate and estate planning attorneys would be happy to counsel and assist you.
If you would like to learn more about either guardianships or conservatorships, please contact one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.