At some point in your life, there may come a time when someone asks you to serve as a fiduciary, someone with some type of decision-making power, on their behalf. Different roles might include that of a power of attorney, a guardian or a conservator. Understanding the distinctions between them can help you better understand your position and the types of responsibilities that might come with it.
If someone you love wants you to be able to make decisions on his or her behalf, you may be able to do so if they give you power of attorney. You may also be able to do so if you serve as a guardian or conservator, although there is an important distinction: the elder or otherwise incapacitated person names his or her own power of attorney, while a court appoints someone a guardian or conservator.
Power of attorney
If you receive control over someone’s affairs via a power of attorney, (meaning a durable or nondurable power of attorney, which differs from a medical power of attorney), you can expect your role will be mainly financial in nature. Your duties in many cases will also be less considerable than those of a guardian or conservator, who may have to make regular appearances in court to sort through affairs or issue reports.
Guardians and conservators
If you serve as someone’s guardian or conservator, your fiduciary duties may extend beyond managing someone else’s finances. They may, for example, include making medical and health care-related decisions, among similar duties. Because the scope of your role may be broader as a guardian or conservator than it would likely be if you took on power of attorney on another’s behalf, you can expect to have to devote more time and attention to associated matters, which might include making regular appearances in court.
While this information outlines some of the key differences between those who hold power of attorney and those involved in guardianships and conservatorships, it is not an exhaustive list.