A minor who is less than 18 years of age will need to have a guardian should they no longer have the protection of a parent or responsible adult. Therefore, a guardian will need to be appointed by the court. In the cases where the minor has inherited and therefore owns property or needs a representative for legal activity, a conservator may also be required. Rulings relating to guardianship and conservatorship are governed by the state and the petition is filed at the county court in which the minor lives.
The difference between the roles of the guardian and the conservator has caused some confusion, but in reality, the two roles are quite straightforward to differentiate. For minors, the guardian makes decisions about personal matters such as education and schooling, medical requirements and housing arrangements. Should the minor own property or have financial assets, a conservator will be required to manage these matters. It is possible that the roles can be combined and assumed by a single person; in other cases the guardian could be a person while the conservator could be an institution such as a bank.
In order for a guardian or conservator to be appointed, a judge will need to make a decision based on a petition filed in court. In an emergency situation where a minor has neither parents nor guardian, for example if the parents were both killed in an accident, a temporary guardian may be appointed.
Guardians are held to account; each year a report needs to be filed that details the condition of the minor and this allows the court to make sure the minor’s interests are being properly served.
A conservator must file an inventory detailing the minor’s assets within a prescribed period of time after being appointed. The inventory should contain all the details of assets from property, to bank account funds and securities. The conservator must maintain meticulous records and act with the utmost integrity or face legal consequences.