This has become a common question among my probate clients who have a loved one who can no longer manage his personal and/or financial affairs. If the appropriate estate planning documents are not in place then the matter oftentimes ends up in the local probate court. Then we need to know what to call the matter...a "conservatorship" or a "guardianship".
As you can see, it's a legal question. This means, by definition, that it does not have a straight answer.
I will spare you all the legal citations. The answer can best be summarized as follows:
* If your loved one is under the age of 18 then it is a "guardianship".
* If your loved one is intellectually disabled (the term "mentally retarded" is no longer appropriate) then it is a "guardianship", regardless of age.
* If your loved one is over the age of 18 and NOT intellectually disabled, then it's a "conservatorship". This is most often a case of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia or a traumatic brain injury.
* If your loved one is an adult and intellectually disabled but only needs help with financial management, then it's a "conservatorship of the estate". Not a "guardianship".
Oh, and by the way...
A conservatorship that deals with financial matters is a "conservatorship of the estate".
A conservatorship that only addresses personal affiars is a "conservatorship of the person".
A guardianship that encompasses all of the individual's matters is a "plenary guardianship".
A guardianship that only covers some of the indiviual's affairs is a "limited guardianship".
I suppose the obvious follow-up question is why Connecticut law doesn't use just one term, either "conservatorship" or "guardianship", regardless of age or the reason why your loved one is incapable.
Answer: Your guess is as good as mine!