Generally speaking, a guardian of a person has authority to make decisions about nearly all aspects of the person’s life except the person’s “estate” – that is, money, property, and business affairs. The standards for when a guardian is appropriate are different than those for a conservator. A person may have either or both a guardian and a conservator. Often they are the same person.

The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) describes a person who needs a guardian this way:

An individual who for reasons other than advanced age or minority, has a clinically diagnosed condition that results in an inability to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to meet essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care, even with technological assistance. Chapter 190B § 5-101. 

Therefore, although the person’s diagnosis is relevant, the key concept is whether the person has the ability to “receive and evaluate information” to “make or communicate decisions” about his or her life.

The standard for appointment of a conservator is a little different – a person who is not able to manage his or her property and finances because of a clinically diagnosed impairment. Chapter 190B § 5-401. 

A conservator may be appointed if a court finds that the person is a “disabled person,” that appointment is “necessary or desirable as a means of providing continuing care and supervision of the property and business affairs of the person to be protected,” and there is no less restrictive means of providing the protection. Chapter 190B § 5-407.