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Powers of Attorney versus Guardianships

Powers of Attorney are usually prepared as part of long term care planning.   Why?  It is important to name someone to handle your medical matters and financial affairs if you become incapacitated and are unable to make appropriate decisions.  The Principal, you, name an Agent, someone you trust, to make medical decisions or to pay your bills and handle your assets.  The Principal should also name a contingent Agent, a back-up person whom you trust, just in case the Agent is unable to serve. 

Powers of Attorney allow the Principal to choose who will help if incapacity or disability occurs.  If no Powers of Attorney are prepared while you are able to do so, however, a family member or a friend may have to file a petition in court to have a judge appoint a guardian. Medical testimony would be obtained from your doctor to prove that you are partially or totally incapacitated. If the judge determines that you are incapacitated, the judge will select the guardian.  The party selected may not be the person you would have chosen and may even be an independent guardian. Guardianships can be time-consuming and expensive. The guardian is required to file an inventory of your assets and annual reports about your medical condition and your finances. The guardian may not handle your affairs the way that you or your trusted person would have. It is a good idea to avoid guardianships and plan ahead by preparing Powers of Attorney with a certified elder law attorney.   

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