When elderly family members can no longer care for themselves, a guardian or power of attorney may step in to assist.
While both types of assistance sound similar, there is one significant advantage of a power of attorney: control.
When someone can no longer care for himself or herself, a close friend or family member can apply for guardianship through the courts. If the court approves the guardianship, that friend or family member becomes responsible for many aspects of the ward’s lives. Guardians make decisions about medical care, finances and legal issues.
Guardianships usually occur when people needing care have not planned for this occasion. As a result, they have no input in who becomes takes on this role and what power that person has.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney is a document where people assign an agent to handle their affairs should they become unable to. The responsibilities of agents are similar to those of guardians. They might make legal, financial and medical decisions for someone who cannot. However, people choose their power of attorney at a time in their lives when they were capable of making the decision.
Advantages of a power of attorney
Preparing powers of attorney has the advantage of allowing family members to have discussions about a loved one’s care when that person is capable of contributing to the conversation. It also allows an individual to decide when the powers begin and what authority the agent has while keeping family members from going to court.
Both guardianships and powers of attorney give authority over one’s life to another person. It is essential to plan for these situations when people have the capacity to make these choices for themselves.