Terms and Definitions for Conservatorship and Guardianship

The following are terms and definitions for conservatorship, guardianship, and related concepts.

Please note, these are common definitions, but precise legal definitions may vary depending on how a term is defined in a contract, law, or case.

What is an Affidavit?

A sworn statement.

What is an Appeal?

To bring a case before a higher court to review a decision of a lower court.

What is a Bond?

A promise by a bonding company, that protects the protected person from mismanagement by the conservator of the estate. In the event of mismanagement, the court may decide that the bond will reimburse the estate for the missing money, and the company that issued the bond can recover the money from the conservator.

What is a Burden of Proof?

Responsibility of a party to prove a fact. The amount of proof required varies with the type of case. In guardianship and conservatorship matters, the burden of proof is clear and convincing evidence.

What is a Change of Venue?

To move the court matter to another county.

What is a Civil Lawsuit?

A legal action brought to receive relief for injuries or monetary loss.

What is a Contested?

When any party objects to the petition or to the hearing.

What is a Continuance?

When the court has agreed to postpone the hearing date.

What is a Co-Conservator (also, Co-Guardian)?

When more than one person is appointed to serve as a decision-maker.

What is a Conservatorship?

A conservatorship exists when a conservator is appointed by the court to handle financial matters for another person. The person for whom a conservator handles financial affairs is called a protected person or protected person.

What is a Proposed Protected Person or Proposed Ward or Respondent?

Is the person for whom the appointment is sought.

Guardianships are only appointed to protect the personal well-being of the Ward.

Conservatorships are appointed to protect the finances of the protected person.

What is an Estate?

A person’s income, assets, real estate, or any other financial holdings.

What is a Guardianship?

A guardianship exists when a guardian is appointed by the court to handle personal decisions for another person. The person for whom a guardian handles personal affairs is called a ward.

What is a Hearing?

A court proceeding that is conducted before a judge or referee, which allows a person or persons to sufficiently present their case in a meaningful manner.

What is Incapacity?

The inability to physically or mentally handle his or her own property or personal affairs.

What is In Forma Pauperis (IFP)?

Minnesota law states that the court may authorize conservatorship (guardianship) proceedings to proceed in forma pauperis, or, without payment of court costs for indigent people. Another law states that counties may be responsible for paying guardian, conservator, attorney, or health care professional fees to establish or maintain conservatorships (guardianships) for indigent persons.

What is an Indigent?

A person with little money or property.

What is Inventory?

A document that describes all assets of the protected person.

What are Less Restrictive Alternatives?

Alternatives to the appointment of a conservator (guardian) must be explored and ruled out prior to petitioning for the appointment of a conservatorship (guardianship).

What is it to Notarize?

A process where an authorized public officer (the notary) verifies the signature on a document. The signature must take place in the presence of the notary.

What is an Oath?

A sworn promise to perform and act faithfully and truthfully.

What is an Order to Show?

Cause An order requiring a party to appear and show why a previous order has not been complied with, or why a proposed order should not be made.

What is a Petition?

A legal document requesting action or relief from the court.

What is a Petitioner?

The person who brings a petition before the court.

What is a Private Conservatorship (Guardianship)?

An individual person or persons is appointed by the court to serve as conservator (guardian).

What is a Protected Person?

A person for whom a conservator was appointed.

What is a Public Conservatorship (Guardianship)?

Sometimes called state conservatorship or guardianship, a procedure where the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services is appointed by the court.

What is a Referee?

A judicial officer who is appointed by a judge. A referee is able to preside over matters as a judicial officer and recommends decisions or orders, which are signed or ordered by a judge.

What is an Emergency Conservatorship (Guardianship)?

In emergency situations where the process of petitioning for a general conservatorship (guardianship) is reasonably expected to cause danger to the proposed protected person’s (ward’s) personal safety or financial security, an emergency conservatorship (guardianship) may be requested. In this instance, the requirement of providing a minimum of two weeks notice to the proposed protected person (ward) and family members is waived. An emergency conservatorship (guardianship) is granted for a specific, usually short, duration.

What is a Subpoena?

An order compelling a witness to appear and testify before a court.

What is a Substitute Decision Maker?

A person acting, either informally as a family member or friend, or formally, as a proxy, agent, guardian or conservator, on behalf of an incapacitated person in making relevant decisions regarding personal and medical issues and/or financial issues.

What is a Technological Assistance?

Technological assistance that may be used to assist the ward or protected person may include, but is not limited to: direct deposit/withdrawal; computer assisted communication; computer controlled wheelchairs; seeing eye dogs; any other form of applied technology that can assist the ward or protected person retain his/her independence.

What is a Testimony?

Oral statements made under oath at a legal proceeding.

What is a Witness?

1. A person called to testify in a legal proceeding.

2. A person who witnesses the signing of a legal document.