How Conservatorship & Power of Attorney Are Different

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When a person becomes incapacitated, his or her financial obligations and living expenses must still be taken care of. Since the person cannot speak for him or herself, the authority to act on the individual’s behalf must be given to someone. The two most common methods of doing so are conservatorship and power of attorney. 

Conservatorship is a court proceeding in which the court appoints a person to see to the financial affairs of a person who is incapacitated. A power of attorney, on the other hand, is a document signed by a person who is still of sound mind and body. There are a few other key differences between the two that should be understood. 

Court Proceedings

Conservatorship is a court proceeding, normally done in the probate court of the county where the person resides. An attorney is usually retained to prepare the documents and file them with the court. A conservator will be appointed by the court, authorizing him or her to handle the financial affairs of the ward. 

Power of attorney doesn’t involve a court proceeding. It’s a document normally prepared by an attorney or through the use of a state-approved form. The person designating the power of attorney must have the capacity to understand what the document is when it’s signed. Otherwise, it’s invalid. It’s normally signed in front of a notary public or two witnesses. 

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Authority Given to the Conservator or Attorney in Fact

In both cases, a great amount of authority is given to the person in charge of the finances. With conservatorship, a probate court may require court approval to act on major financial decisions. With power of attorney, the person acting as power of attorney was given a designated amount of authority determined by the incapacitated person when the document was originally signed. 

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With conservatorship, a probate court will require a periodic accounting of the income and expenses of the ward. A power of attorney doesn’t unless specified in the original signed document. However, many states are now requiring an attorney in fact to act reasonably when making investments. In either case, using the funds of the ward for the caregiver’s personal benefit is considered a criminal act. 


Conservatorship is a far more expensive proceeding, often costing thousands in attorney fees. A power of attorney can be prepared for far less, even if an attorney prepares the documents. If the document is prepared through downloaded forms, the cost is negligible. 

Making these types of crucial decisions for a loved one can be a challenging task, especially if you have other important duties to tend to. Whether your elderly loved one needs part-time assistance with basic household chores or you need a break from your caregiving duties, the Tucson respite care experts at Home Care Assistance are here to help. All of our respite care services are backed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we never ask our clients to sign long-term contracts. Call one of our dedicated Care Managers today at (520) 276-6555 to learn about the high quality of our in-home care services.


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