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What is the Difference Between Guardianship and Power Of Attorney?

There may be a time in your life where you become a power of attorney for someone; be it a spouse, a parent or a sibling, or even a close friend.  It’s an important undertaking that should be taken seriously, so you should have a full understanding of it before accepting this responsibility.

You may also run into a similar circumstance where you assume Guardianship of someone.  This is equally as important and is not something that should be taken lightly.  But what exactly is the difference? 

Guardianship and power of attorney serve similar purposes, they also have several differences in their application and how they appoint control to individuals.  Levin Law Group wants to help you understand exactly what those differences are, so you can make informed decisions in the future.  We will start by defining each of these individually and then discussing their differences.

A power of attorney is a legal document where a person names someone to act on their behalf.  Power of attorney is usually used for estate planning, though there are other situations where it may come into play.  A general power of attorney is broad and this would allow the appointed person to make all financial and personal decisions for someone.  It can also be limited, so that the appointed person only has the authority to make decisions that you specify.  A durable power of attorney grants the appointed person the ability to make decisions for you now and in a case where you would be incompetent.  A power of attorney can be revoked at any time, as long as you have the mental capacity to do so.

A guardianship is a legal relationship that grants a guardian the power to make decisions for another person, commonly referred to as a ward.  Family members or close friends can start proceedings off by filing a petition in the court of the county where the ward lives. The court appoints an evaluator to evaluate the condition of the ward. The evaluator meets with the ward and other witnesses and then writes a report to the court.  Should the court decide that the ward cannot meet a specific set of requirements for their health and safety, they can then assign a guardian to that ward.  The guardian would then make personal decisions for the ward.  Unless it is specified by the court, the guardian would have all the same powers, rights, and responsibilities over their ward as a parent would have over their children.

While they have similarities there are obvious differences between the two. 

A power of attorney is done outside of the courtroom.  It is a private way for you to decide who will have the permission to carry out your wishes, especially if you can no longer speak for yourself.  Granting power of attorney is usually less expensive than the process of getting a guardianship granted.  Also, in a power of attorney, you have the ability to choose who you grant power to.  A guardianship is a legal proceeding in which someone is appointed to be your guardian and it might not be a person of your choosing.  Lastly, because a power of attorney is not ordered by a court, not every institution may honor it.  In these cases, you may have to begin the proceedings to be granted guardianship.

Levin Law Group is happy to help you along the way to decide what is best for you and your family.  Estate planning, powers of attorney, and guardianship are areas we specialize in, as we offer a wide range of services.  We are dedicated to each and every client and are passionate about what we do. 

Contact us today to see how we can represent you!