The words guardianship and conservatorship are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings in the State of Texas. The term conservatorship is synonymous with the word custody. It is used in the family law context when a family law court issues an order regarding custody and visitation for a minor child or children. For example, if two people have shared custody of a minor child, they have what is called joint managing conservatorship. An order for conservatorship may carry over after the eighteenth birthday of a child if the child has special needs and will need continued support from his or her parents into adulthood.
When other adults (incapacitated adults) need someone to care for and make decisions for them, the proper place to go is probate court. If, after an investigation is conducted, the court determines that the person cannot care for himself or herself, the court will place the person under a guardianship and appoint a guardian. The guardian's job will be to look out for the best interests of the incapacitated adult, who is referred to as the Ward. A Ward may have a guardian of the person, a guardian of the estate, or both. There are instances when a minor child may have a guardian; most instances occur when the child is an orphan or when the child has substantial assets.