Michigan individuals who do not make alternative arrangements through estate planning may find that others are appointed as a guardian or conservator if they are declared incapacitated by a court of competent jurisdiction. The duties of guardians and conservators differ considerably.
If the court goes through a guardianship process, a particular individual or organization is appointed as a guardian. This individual's duties are specifically outlined by the court. These powers may include the ability to make health care decisions on behalf of another person, to choose the individual's residence, to receive the individual's funds and to utilize those funds for the individual's care. The guardian is also responsible for arranging the individual's care and treatment, protecting the individual's assets and securing necessary services to help retain the person's autonomy.
In a conservatorship, the court appoints an individual to handle financial matters on behalf of the individual. This individual does not have any rights to making decisions regarding health care. He or she invests funds on behalf of the incapacitated individual and manages other assets. An incapacitated individual may have both a conservator and a guardian. In some cases, this is the same person. In other cases, two different people fulfill these two roles.
If a person makes a designation before being declared incapacitated, he or she can choose his or her own patient advocate. The person determines the powers to give the patient advocate, which may include the powers that a guardian might be granted.
While this information may act as a foundation for understanding guardian and conservator designations, it should not be considered legal advice. In some cases, an estate plan may include provisions that make conservatorships or guardianships unnecessary. Those who would prefer to appoint their own caretakers might discuss their case with a lawyer who is familiar with various estate planning strategies.
Source: Michigan.gov, "ALTERNATIVES TO FULL GUARDIANSHIP FOR ADULTS", October 27, 2014