Conservatorship vs. Power of Attorney: What You Should Know

Older couple reviewing their estate plan

Many people struggle with the idea of planning for something bad to happen. However, while we hope that nothing bad will ever befall ourselves or our loved ones, the worst thing would be if it did and we weren’t prepared. Sometimes a person may become incapacitated. Incapacitation occurs when an individual is unable to perform various functions under the law because they lack physical or cognitive abilities. You can protect yourself and your loved ones through estate planning. A couple of ways in which you can prepare for incapacitation are by executing a power of attorney and/or a conservatorship. Here’s what to know about them both.

Both Appoint Someone to Make Decisions

Both a power of attorney and a conservatorship appoint someone to make decisions on behalf of a specific individual. Under a power of attorney this person is referred to as an agent whereas under a conservatorship it is a conservator. The extent to which an agent or conservator can make decisions on various things depends upon the manner in which the document is written. A couple of areas in which an agent or conservator may be responsible for include medical and financial. Even within a specific area, the extent to which the agent or conservator is in charge of different topics can differ. 

Requested vs. Imposed

Although a power of attorney and a conservatorship share some similar purposes and the agent and conservator share similar responsibilities, there is a big difference between the two. While a power of attorney is established by the same individual who would later require the appointed agent, a conservatorship is established by someone other than the individual who is incapacitated. For a conservatorship to be imposed, the court must decide whether the specifics of the situation necessitate someone else to take on certain responsibilities and what those responsibilities are. In essence, a power of attorney is requested while a conservatorship is imposed. 

Can You Have Both?

While someone may have a power of attorney or a conservatorship, they can also have both at the same time. An individual may execute a power of attorney only to have someone else request a conservatorship thereafter. Again, the court must determine whether a conservatorship is necessary or if the power of attorney is enough considering the situation. A court may also decide that a conservatorship should replace an existing power of attorney.

Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help Those in VA Who Wish to Execute an Estate Plan

If you or a loved one is interested in executing or updating an estate plan, it’s important that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Virginia estate planning attorney who can help you do so.
At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we will help you to establish an estate plan that protects the people and things you love. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Estate planning/Trusts