Many people in Georgia are unable to care for themselves. Some have been disabled since their youth, others have been disabled by an accident or disease and still others are incapacitated by infirmities of old age, such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Despite a person's incapacity, that person may have legal or financial obligations. Managing these relationships can place a heavy burden on family members or friends, and Georgia has created two types of relationships that allow another person to care for or make decisions for a person who is unable to do so: guardianships and conservatorships.
A guardianship is a legal appointment that allows one person to care for the physical well-being of another person who cannot provide such care. A guardian can be appointed for a minor child or an adult. Once appointed, the guardian must sign an oath swearing to comply with all requirements of Georgia law that apply to guardianships. The probate court may require a guardian to post a surety bond.
A conservatorship is a legal appointment that gives one person the legal power to take possession of and manage the financial resources of the ward. A conservator will be required to post a surety bond to ensure the faithful performance of the conservator's duties. The amount will be set by the court. Unlike a guardianship, where the bond is option, a conservator's bond is mandatory.
The distinction between a guardian and a conservator is fairly simple: the former involves the physical welfare of the ward and the latter involves the ward's finances. Despite this simple distinction, both guardians and conservators must comply with a very complex set of laws, so it is important to understand special needs planning.