The difference between a power of attorney and legal guardianship


A power of attorney is meant to avoid the necessity of obtaining a legal guardianship, which can take up to 5 months and $5,000 to set up.  If a legal guardianship is established, all powers of attorney are automatically revoked.


Diane: Yes, good morning. I wanted to know what the difference was between a power of attorney and legal guardianship. And then, if that power of attorney will suffice if you're making end of life decisions for health reasons. My insurance company said that the power of attorney was not as appropriate as a health surrogate. And so I wanted to know how that works.

Attorney Tom Olsen: Well, Diane, that's a lot of information, and you're leaving me somewhat confused. But let's talk about this. A durable power of attorney is a document where you sign and you're appointing somebody to make either healthcare decisions for you, or take care of financial business for you if you're not able to. Usually they're done in two separate powers of attorney, but they can be combined into one.

They are meant to avoid guardianships. And we're talking about that all the time. You do want to avoid guardianships. They're costly and they take a long time to setup. And they can be avoided uses up a power of attorney. Now if you have powers of attorney out there, and for some reason somebody feels like a guardianship is still required, the moment that guardianship is approved by the court, all powers of attorneys are wiped out as if they're ripped up, they cannot be used anymore. So a guardianship, a legal guardianship trumps powers of attorney.