Managing our own problems can seem more than enough in life. But family sometimes need a little more from us when they are not able to handle the more complicated parts of life. This is often assumed for children and a little trickier for adults without the capacities to manage as adults.
There is a difference between a guardian and a conservator when it comes to managing a person who needs the help, known as a ward. A guardian is responsible for the personal care that a person needs but cannot provide, like lodging and nourishment. This is similar to role of a parent or guardian to a minor.
A conservator is someone who supervises a person's financial affairs and estate. This is often required for a person with insufficient mental capacity to manage a large inheritance or a person for whom their mental abilities have declined after a life of earning and creating wealth. In some jurisdictions, a conservator is only required legally if she or he will handle more than a certain amount in value per year.
A guardian might look into assisted living such as nursing home lodging if it is required for the comfort and safety of a ward, while managing the person's bank account for such expenditures. If a ward's holdings include any real estate or tangible property of significant value, enough to be preserved or sold, a conservator would most likely handle those holdings.
The appointment of a conservator or guardian may be included in a person's estate plans. An attorney can help discuss these legal eventualities as part of a larger discussion about estate planning.