As you create a California estate plan, you may hear the terms conservator and guardian tossed around occasionally. While the same person can be appointed to carry out both duties, the role is actually different. No matter how old you are, it is important that you understand the differences and include the right information in your estate plan.

If you are determined by the court at some point to be physically or mentally incapacitated, or you have a minor child in need of care after you die, a guardian or conservator may be appointed to handle the duties. According to The Balance, a guardian arranges personal care and handles medical needs. This person determines where you or your children will live, such as a full care facility, an assisted living facility or with a caretaker at home.

A conservator then steps in to invest any liquid assets you or your children have. They may hire a financial advisor to help them determine the best steps to take and they may also oversee a basic bank account. The conservator also handles tangible personal property or real estate when you have more substantial holdings. This may involve selling a car to selling a home to provide the financial means for specialized care.

Finally, a conservator will file income tax returns and pay any of the ward’s bills. These may be personal or medical, although the guardian can be given this task if the financial obligations are small. In some states, there must be court approval to appoint a conservator or a guardian, but an estate planning attorney can help walk you through that process to ensure the right people are making choices for you when necessary.

This is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.