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The difference between guardianships and powers of attorney

Watching your parents age and begin to lose some of their cognitive or physical abilities is often difficult. At some point, you may question your mother or father’s ability to make sound decisions. Guardianships and powers of attorney both give you or someone else the legal right to make certain decisions on your parent’s behalf in Massachusetts. However, there are some important distinctions that exist between the two.

According to AARP, having a solid understanding of the differences between guardianship and powers of attorney should help you determine whether one solution might meet your needs better than the other.

Guardianships

A guardianship is often the last resort when an individual never created a power of attorney but lacks the capacity to make decisions. If you request a guardianship, the court must first agree that the individual in question lacks the capacity to advocate for his or herself. An appointed guardian then assumes responsibility for making various decisions on the other party’s behalf.

Powers of attorney

An important distinction between guardianships and powers of attorney is that, with powers of attorney, your parent makes the decisions while he or she is still of sound mind. This differs from guardianships, which come into play once a parent has already become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney is a specific type that gives someone else the right to make decisions on another’s behalf even if the person authoring it becomes incapacitated after signing it.

Ultimately, whether a guardianship or a power of attorney might better suit your needs depends on your parent’s ability to make and understand the consequences of his or her own decisions.

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