Power of attorney and guardianship are two ways to give another person the legal right to act on behalf of another. There are several significant differences between them which have profoundly different legal 0.effects.
A power of attorney (“POA”) is a written document that authorizes another person, known as an “attorney-in-fact,” to legally act on behalf of another, known as a “principal.” POAs can be broadly drafted, allowing the attorney-in-fact to act to do most things for the principal, or they can be narrowly drafted to limit an attorney-in-fact’s authorized powers to specific duties. Typical acts that are authorized for attorneys-in-fact to perform include signing documents for the principal, paying bills, performing banking functions, and making healthcare decisions. POAs could be helpful for ageing family members who may be experiencing difficulties with their mobility, but still retain some independence. In addition, a POA is effective even if the individual loses the ability to understand the purpose of the POA after signing the document.
If an individual has already lost the ability to make and understand their decisions, then a guardianship might be necessary to manage that person’s affairs. In a guardianship, a person is appointed by a court (the “guardian”) to act in the best interests of another individual who is unable to care for herself (the “ward”). When a guardian is appointed, significant limits are placed on the ward’s ability to act and make decisions. For example, the guardian will make decisions about how the ward spends her money, where she lives, and what medical care she receives. An adult guardianship may be needed for a person with a severe mental illness who is unable to make informed decisions, such as a person in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.
Contact the elder law and estate planning attorneys at McNeelyLaw LLP for any questions you may have about whether a POA or a guardianship may be appropriate for your situation.
This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.