Guardianships Attorney in Milpitas, California

How does a conservatorship differ from a power of attorney or guardianship?

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Milpitas, CA estates & probate attorney Elijah Keyes discusses how a conservatorship differs from a power of attorney or guardianship. In most states, the terms “guardianship” and “conservatorship” are essentially interchangeable, referring to the appointment of a court-authorized representative responsible for making financial or personal decisions on behalf of an individual who is deemed incapacitated. In the state of California, the legal terminology differentiates between “conservatorship” for adults and “guardianship” for children, but the core concept remains consistent—a court-appointed representative making decisions for an individual lacking the capacity to do so independently.

Distinct from these court-ordered arrangements, a power of attorney is a legally binding document created by an individual to designate an agent authorized to make future financial decisions on their behalf. Similarly, a health care directive serves the same purpose but extends to health care and personal decisions. Notably, these documents do not require court orders and are solely driven by the preferences and choices of the person signing them.

The disparity between conservatorships and powers of attorney or health care directives lies in their complexity, cost, and level of intrusion. Establishing a conservatorship is a notably costly and time-consuming process, characterized by substantial judicial oversight. The judge is tasked with scrutinizing the suitability of the nominated conservator, who is not chosen by the incapacitated person but rather appointed by the court. The conservator’s actions are closely monitored, necessitating annual filings to ensure their appropriateness.

Conversely, powers of attorney and health care directives grant individuals greater autonomy in determining the extent of control they wish to delegate, often requiring fewer formalities and interventions, rendering them less intrusive alternatives.

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