In Virginia, it is important to know how to protect loved ones who might not be able to care for themselves. Two options that can be helpful in these circumstances are powers of attorney and conservatorships.
Is there a difference between the two?
Powers of attorney and conservatorships both give a person the right to make decisions for another person. Knowing the difference is essential.
With a power of attorney, the principal will select an agent who will make legal decisions in their stead if they are incapacitated and cannot do it on their own. It can cover their finances, medical care and other matters.
Financially, the agent will have access to bank accounts, investments and more. They can pay the person’s bills and make necessary purchases. With health care, they have access to medical records and can make decisions based on what the principal would want. It is a completely voluntary arrangement.
With a conservatorship, a person will lose legal rights and be a ward to the conservator. A conservator can make similar decisions as the agent in a power of attorney, but it can extend further. A guardianship is also an alternative where the guardian is completely responsible for the ward. The conservatorship is for their estate and their finances. These are key points to remember with a power of attorney, guardianships and conservatorships.
The issues can be complex
In general, a power of attorney is done by choice while a conservatorship is for situations where the prospective ward is a danger to themselves. Since these issues are complex, those who want to protect another person should assess the circumstances and understand the difference between a power of attorney and a conservatorship.