What Is the Difference Between an Executor & a Conservator?

by A.L. Kennedy
You may name a conservator to manage your finances if you become incapacitated.

You may name a conservator to manage your finances if you become incapacitated.

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A person's will can name both an executor and a conservator. These may be the same person or two different people. Each job has different duties. Additionally, a living will may also name a conservator, but not an executor. If you have trouble deciding whom to choose for either job, you may want to consult a lawyer in your state for a better understanding of the details each duty requires.

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Executor Duties

The role of the executor is to pay your bills, manage your property so it does not lose value and distribute your property to the persons named in your will. Your executor will be supervised by the probate court where your will is filed. Usually, your will is not filed with a court until after your death and your executor has no power over your estate until you die.

Conservators in Wills

A conservator is usually named in a last will along with a guardian for any minor children that the person making the will leaves behind. The guardian and conservator may be the same person, or they may be two different people. The job of the guardian is to make the legal and day-to-day decisions concerning the care and raising of the child, while the job of the conservator is to manage any money that is left to the child until the child is old enough to manage her money herself. Like your executor, a person you name as a conservator for your children in your will has no power until after you die.

Conservators in Living Wills

A living will may also name a conservator. In a living will, the conservator acts only if the person who made the will becomes incapable of acting on her own behalf. For instance, if you are incapacitated in a car crash and cannot make your own financial decisions, your conservator can take over the job of paying your bills and managing your existing investments. Unlike in a last will, the conservator in a living will does not have any power over your finances after you die. Instead, your living-will conservator only has power to handle your money while you are alive because you are unable to do it yourself.

Court Appointments

If your living will or last will does not name an executor or conservator, or if the person you named is unwilling or unable to serve, a probate court may appoint both an executor and a conservator for your children or for you if you are incapacitated. To avoid the risk of a court appointment, you can list in your last will or living will a contingent executor and/or conservator. This person serves as a backup to the first person you name. Your contingent executor or conservator can take over the job if your first choice cannot or will not do it.