A power of attorney is a legal document in which one person (the principal) authorizes another (the agent) to act on his/her behalf. Financial powers of attorney allow your agent to make decisions regarding your property. Healthcare powers of attorney allow your agent to make decisions regarding your health care needs.
A power of attorney permits you to appoint someone else to manage your
financial and business affairs when you cannot do it yourself anymore.
This document can be a lifesaver when crisis situations occur after an
accident or illness. The agent can do whatever the document allows, such
as withdraw bank funds, pay bills, cash checks, and buy and sell real
estate. The power of attorney is less costly and more private than a
Guardianship, on the other hand, is a legal relationship whereby a
probate court gives a person (the guardian) the power to make personal
decisions for another (the ward).
A family member or a friend can initiate the proceedings by filing a
petition in the probate court in the county where the individual
resides. A medical examination by a licensed physician may be necessary
to establish the individual's condition. A court of law will then
determine whether the person is unable to meet the essential
requirements for his/her health and safety.
A conservatorship is a legal relationship whereby the probate court
gives a person (the conservator) the power to make financial decisions
for another (the protectee). The court proceedings are very similar to
those of a guardianship except the court determines whether an
individual lacks the capacity to manage his or her financial affairs. If
so, the court appoints a conservator to make monetary decisions for the
individual. Often the court appoints the same person to act as both
guardian and conservator for the individual. Like the guardian, the
conservator is required to report to the court yearly.
With all this in mind, you should evaluate your situation. What would
you do if you could no longer handle your own affairs? You may want to
consult with an attorney specializing in Elder Law, who will be able to
assist you and advise you in this matter. By doing this now when you
still have the time, you will save yourself and your loved ones
heartache and financial expenses in the future.
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