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What Is Meant by "Guardianships" - "Conservatorships" - "Decedents' Estates"?

As adults, we all make personal decisions for ourselves, like where we will live, what medical decisions we make, etc.  When someone cannot make those decisions for themselves, they need someone to make those decisions for them; when that decision-maker is appointed by the court, they are referred to as a "Guardian".  The case is called a "Guardianship", and the protected/legally disabled person is sometimes called a "ward".

When a person needs the help of another, in making business or financial decisions, and that helper is appointed by the court, we refer to that person as a "Conservator", and the relationship as a "Conservatorship".

Finally, when someone dies, their estate is referred to, pretty clearly, as a "Decedent's Estate", and in Michigan, the representative is formally called a "Personal Representative". Other states refer to this representative as an "executor", or "administrator".

Each of these representatives has an obligation to the person, or to the estate they represent.  They are obligated to put the interests of the person/estate, before their own interests, and they are required to account for all funds received and spent.  

All three of these representatives, be they Guardians, Conservators, or Personal Representatives (or "Estate P.R.'s" for short), are referred to as "fiduciaries".  This is simply one word that describes all three persons, and as well, describes others who have a special duty of care, loyalty and honor to the persons they represent.  Lawyers are also considered "fiduciaries" for their clients, whether in a probate context, or not.

In addition to these other duties (of care, loyalty & honor), another thing all of these fiduciaries have in common, is a duty to report.  In Guardianships, there is an "Annual Report On The Condition of The Ward", and in Conservatorships and Decedents' Estates, there is an initial Inventory of assets, and annual accountings, which take place every year thereafter, until the Conservatorship/Decedent's Estate is closed.

Learn more about Michigan Probate Laws & Protections.

The next area of Probate Court jurisdiction, is that of decedents' estates. These estates are handled differently, depending on how much, and what kind of assets are involved, whether Court supervision is required or desired, whether there is a will or not, and on other factors too numerous, and case-specific to list out here... Continue reading.

Property distributed by intestate succession, is distributed to intestate heirs, as described below, in the following order:
.. Continue reading.

A Guardian Ad Litem, or GAL, is not really a guardian, but is instead someone (usually an attorney) hired to be “the eyes and ears of the judge”. A GAL is appointed to protect the interests of vulnerable persons, such as the elderly, or minors, who may have an interest in a court proceeding. The GAL is usually required to visit at the home of that vulnerable person, to find out the true “on the ground” facts behind a Petition, and to report to the Probate Judge... Continue reading.

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