When a person becomes incapacitated or disabled, the court may appoint guardians and conservators to make important life decisions for them. While both positions involve responsibility for the ward’s affairs, each holds a different set of legal capabilities. To better illustrate how these roles work, here are some frequently asked questions about guardianships and conservatorships and how an estate lawyer can help you pursue these roles.

What You Should Know About Guardians Vs. Conservators

What is a guardian, and what is a conservator?

A guardian has the court-appointed ability to manage non-monetary matters and healthcare decisions for a person who is incapacitated due to an illness, injury, or disability.

A conservator has the court-appointed ability to make financial decisions and manage accounts for a person who is incapacitated due to an illness, injury, or disability.

How are these roles established?

If you’re interested in becoming a guardian or conservator, you’ll need to file a petition with the court, usually with the help of an experienced estate lawyer. In Hawaii, conservatorship petitions are reviewed by the Probate Court, while guardianship petitions are reviewed by the Family Court.

estate planningThese petitions should provide a medical opinion regarding the person’s ability to manage financial or healthcare decisions. They must also be submitted to interested parties—such as family members of the ward—to see if they have any objections to the potential appointment. These petitions are reviewed during a court hearing.

Before the hearing, a court-appointed attorney or representative, known as a Kokua Kanawai in Hawaii, will interview the ward and all interested parties.

In the hearing, the judge will review the petition evidence and Kokua Kanawai statements to determine if guardianship or conservatorship is necessary.

Upon appointment, the guardian or conservator will be granted a formal order that they can present to prove their ability to make decisions for the ward.

Can the same person act as both guardian and conservator?

If both roles are deemed necessary by the court, the same person can be appointed to act as both guardian and conservator. However, separate people can also take on these roles. Often, these roles can be established in a single hearing.

What if I don’t want the court to appoint a guardian or conservator for me in the future?

If you don’t want to be managed by a court-appointed conservatorship or guardianship, create a will with the help of an attorney. In your estate planning documents, explain who you want to have a durable power of attorney to manage financial or personal care decisions if you become incapacitated.


If you have questions about guardianships or conservatorships, the Law Office of George N. Nam has answers. Serving Aiea, HI, for more than 25 years, this estate lawyer understands how to pursue these roles and manage them within Hawaii. Nam can also create wills and trusts to grant a trusted individual power of attorney. Visit this Oahu attorney online for more details on these services, or call (808) 487-9455 to schedule a consultation.