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Difference Between Power of Attorney and Conservatorship

According to A People's Choice, Power of Attorney is a deliberate, voluntary act. More specifically, a Power of Attorney is a legal document that legally allows and authorizes someone else to act on behalf of the person making a power of attorney. This other person is called an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.” In the event the person who created a power of attorney (known as the “principal”) is unable to act, their appointed agent can step in and enter into transactions on the principal’s behalf.


A conservatorship is a legal relationship created through a court order. In other words, to get a conservatorship over someone else (the conservatee), you must file a formal court proceeding. The court will determine if a person is incapacitated and in need of care. Specifically, a conservator is usually appointed to look after the conservatee’s well-being. On the other hand, a conservator may also be given authority to make financial decisions and living arrangements for the conservatee’s benefit.


When comparing the difference between power of attorney and conservatorship, keep in mind that a person creates a power of attorney before a person they are incapacitated. In contrast, a conservatorship is formed after a person is no longer able to competently make critical financial decisions on his or her own. In other words, to sign a Power of Attorney, a person must have the mindful capacity to sign a legal document with full understanding and intent. In the event they do not have this capacity, you will need to file a conservatorship to handle their personal and financial affairs.

Secondly, creating a conservatorship requires a public proceeding while a power of attorney does not. As mentioned above, the conservatorship will require continuous supervision of the court while a power of attorney does not. A power of attorney is a voluntary act by the person signing the document. Moreover, a power of attorney is less expensive than a conservatorship as well. The principal can choose the agent in the power of attorney while the court selects and approves the conservator.

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