What’s the difference? And how do I know what’s best for my family?
If you’re helping to care for a loved one who is unable to manage their own affairs, you have options in how you and your family can move forward. Someone who cannot make decisions or act on their own behalf becomes a “ward”; for many families, senior loved ones dealing with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other conditions may become a ward of another family member.
Both guardianship and power of attorney grant that person the ability to make legally binding decisions for the ward.
Many families choose to have someone appointed as guardian, or to have power of attorney for an aging family member. In doing so, this person will make decisions about healthcare, finances, home ownership, and other important issues in the life of an aging family member.
Your loved one can enable another family member to act on their behalf by appointing that person to have power of attorney. If your loved one signs a power of attorney document, they are knowingly and willingly appointing someone to act on their behalf. If your loved one does not appoint someone to have power of attorney, and the court determines that your loved one is incapacitated, the court will appoint a guardian.
Like a power of attorney, guardianship allows another individual to make decisions on behalf of someone who is incapacitated. There are two types of guardianship: guardian of the person, and guardian of the estate. A guardian of the person is appointed to protect and to provide for the ward’s daily needs, such as housing, food, healthcare, and other necessities. A guardian of the person may make decisions about medical treatment, long term care, and other professional services that the ward might need. If the ward has minor children, a guardian of the person also serves as guardian of the children.
The second type of guardianship is known as guardian of the estate. This type of guardianship is focused on managing the property and assets of the ward in a way that best serves the ward’s interests. That might include collecting income, making payments toward debts, or investing assets. A guardian of the estate is required to file an accounting of the ward’s assets with the court on a regular basis.
If your family is helping to care for a loved one who may be incapacitated, we can help you decide the best way to proceed. Call us today for help with questions about guardianship or power of attorney.