What’s the Difference Between Power of Attorney and Guardianship?

Most people are confused by estate planning and put it off until the very last minute. Sometimes this is because people don’t want to face the thought of dying. Other times, it’s because people don’t want to admit that they don’t know what kind of help they need. One of the most important things you can do for yourself and for your loved ones is to clearly designate power of attorney and guardianship. What’s the difference between the two? Read on to learn!

Where Power of Attorney and Guardianship Arise.

Most people have heard of a will or a trust, both of which are legal documents that specify how your real and personal property should be transferred to others after you die. However, an important part of your estate plan involves specifying what you want to happen if at any point you become incapacitated before you die. Incapacitation can happen because of physical or mental injury, and you are incapacitated if you are unable to manage your financial, medical, or personal affairs.

An experienced Illinois estate planning lawyer can help you prepare power of attorney documents to prepare for this situation. Power of attorney designates who has the power to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated. Since this person has significant power, it is important you wisely select who they are and determine whether they should have general or specific power of attorney. General power of attorney confers broad powers, while limited restricts that person to acting only on certain matters.

It’s important to know that power of attorney must be designated while the principal designator is of sound mind, rather than after they are already incapacitated. This is for the protection of the person who has become incapacitated. Guardianship comes into play when someone who didn’t designate agents in powers of attorneys becomes incapacitated. Guardianship allows someone to serve as a legal guardian for you or your dependents in the event you become incapacitated.

If all of this sounds complicated—it can be! But, it is much less complicated if you plan in advance for the possibility that you could become incapacitated. Simply put, it is less expensive, less confusing, less time-consuming, and more efficient for you to plan for incapacity in advance.  It is also important to mention that planning in advance is the only way you can be certain that you are cared for by the person you actually want to take care of you. When you do not designate this person in advance, a judge has the power to appoint anyone they see as fit to manage your affairs.

Whether you need help creating your initial estate plan, or if you would like to modify an existing one to make sure you have adequately designated your power of attorney and guardian, we can help. At M&A Law, our attorneys have extensive experience helping people from all backgrounds create estate plans that ensure their wishes are effected after they pass. We always work to ensure that your estate plan protects you and your loved ones, and take the time to answer any questions that our clients have. Contact M&A Law Firm, PC today to discuss your options.