The same person is usually appointed both guardian and conservator, although it is possible for different persons to be appointed with respect to the same minor or incapacitated and disabled adult. Parents have the first priority for appointment as conservators for the estates of their minor children, although such appointment is necessary only if the minor will receive property from some source other than his or her parents, such as the settlement of a personal injury action, an inheritance from a decedent`s estate or some other source of property or income. Parents are the natural guardians for their children and need not be appointed as such by a court. However, if a minor has no parents, then the court may consider a guardian and conservator chosen by the minor if the minor is over the age of 14 years. The court may also consider a person named in the will of the last parent to die. In any event, the person appointed by the court must be suitable and qualified. If the minor is unable to choose a guardian and conservator and if the last surviving parent failed to designate a guardian and conservator in his or her will, then the court will appoint the most suitable person, usually an adult brother or sister or other close adult relative who is willing to serve. An incapacitated or disabled person may designate his or her own guardian or conservator if, at the time of the hearing, the person is able to communicate a reasonable choice to the court. In addition, any competent adult person may designate a suitable person to serve as guardian or a suitable person or eligible corporation to serve as conservator, if done in writing and witnessed by at least two witnesses within five years before the date of the hearing. (Frequently such designations are made in Durable Powers of Attorney, which are discussed elsewhere in this publication.) If no suitable person has been nominated by the incapacitated or disabled person, the court will consider appointing, in order: the spouse, parents, adult children, adult brothers and sisters and other close adult relatives. If there are no relatives willing or able to serve, the court may appoint any suitable person (such as a close friend) or, if no one steps forward, the public administrator. A person need not be a resident of the state of Missouri to qualify for appointment as a guardian or conservator. However, the court may consider the fact of nonresidency when determining who may be suitable for appointment as a guardian or conservator.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified estate planning lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local estate planning attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.