There is a difference between a guardian and a conservator. However, in most instances, if a guardianship is needed, so is a conservatorship. At times, both may be granted together. Generally speaking, guardianship is a legal right given to someone who will be responsible for a place to live, medical care, food and other things needed by a person fully or partially unable to provide these things for himself or herself.
A conservatorship is a legal right given to someone to be responsible for finances and assets of a person who can no longer do that for himself or herself. The definitions are fairly fluid in the different jurisdictions across the U.S.
There are a variety of circumstances when a legal guardian is required, including when mental or physical problems bar people who have no one to legally speak for them from taking care of themselves, which places them in danger of harm. Emergency guardianships may also be awarded in special circumstances, such as a serious illness, where the guardian will act on a person’s behalf until he or she is able to make decisions.