Conservatorships vs. Powers of Attorney: Which Is Right for You?

You may need to manage the affairs of an elderly family member who can no longer make decisions. A power of attorney and conservatorship are two common ways you can elect someone to make decisions on behalf of your loved one.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a relatively low-cost and straightforward way to take over decision-making, but this legal document must be prepared and signed while your loved one is still of sound mind. When a power of attorney has not been created before mental deterioration occurs, a representative, usually a family member, must go to court and ask to become a conservator of the estate as well as of the person.

The Cost of Conservatorships

Setting up a conservatorship generally incurs higher costs than basic estate planning tasks. Additionally, the person intending to be conservator must submit a petition requesting court official approval to become the conservator. Once granted by a court, the conservatorship will create the legal authority for the conservator to make medical and financial decisions for the ward. Conservatorships are usually established for people with a serious medical condition, such as being in a coma or suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s.

The petition process is time-consuming unless you can prove to the court it is an emergency situation. It is costly and you will be required to pay fees to the court and to a probate investigator. In addition, you may have to periodically submit detailed financial statements to the court. The sale of a major asset could require court approval as well.

Costly difficulties such as these illustrate the value of early estate planning. To avoid legal hurdles, you can set up a plan that allows for a smooth and less costly transition between your loved one and an heir. It may seem daunting, but a qualified TuckerAllen estate planning attorney can help you decide which is most appropriate for your situation. Your attorney can also explain how powers of attorney work to the loved one approving the transfer of legal authority. Your loved one will need to sign the document before the window of opportunity closes.

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