PA Terms


What is a Guardian?

A Guardian “Guards” the person. A Guardian is a person appointed by the court to assist a person, whose mental disability has caused incompetence, in making decisions regarding personal affairs (such as place of residence and medical care). When a person has been adjudged by the Probate Court to be mentally incapacitated and incapable of making informed decision without the risk of harm, then a Guardian may be appointed. A person under Guardianship is known as a “Ward”. A limited Guardian is a person whose powers as a Guardian is limited by the Court to certain functions.

What is a Conservator?

A Conservator “Conserves” the assets of a person. A Conservator is appointed by the court to care for, have custody of the property, and oversee the financial affairs of a minor or disabled person. A Conservator may be appointed by the court when a person does not have the capacity to manage their financial affairs or because the person’s physical ability impairs their ability to handle affairs. A person under Conservatorship is known as a “Proctectee”.

When is a Guardian and/or Conservator Appointed?

Guardian/Conservatorship is the most restrictive form of protection given to mental disabled and incapacitated individuals and should be used only when less restrictive measures are not adequate to meet their needs. Some incapacitated persons can make a responsible decision in some areas, but not all areas of their lives. In this situation, Guardianship and/or Conservatorship may be limited by the court to only those areas in which the incapacitated person is unable to make responsible decisions.

What is incapacitated?

In order to have a Guardian, a person must be determined by the Probate Judge to be incapacitated. There are four types of mental disability and incapacitation that may cause the probate court to appoint a Guardian and/or Conservator:
• Mental Illness (such as schizophrenia and bipolar illness)
• Developmental Disabilities
• Brain Injury or Disease
• Diseases of the Aging (such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia)

An incapacitated person is someone who is unable to make decisions by reason of any physical or mental condition. The person is unable to receive and evaluate information, or to communicate decisions. The person lacks the capacity to meet essential requirements for food, clothing, shelter, safety, or other care such as serious physical injury, illness, or disease is likely to occur.

What is disabled?

A disabled person is someone who is unable by reason of any physical or mental condition to received and evaluate information or who lacks the ability to communicate decisions needs to manage their financial resources.