Both a durable power of attorney and a conservatorship are legal processes which provide another person the authority to make decisions, daily or financial, on your behalf. However, the distinctions between each are important to understand.
A power of attorney is a document granting another person power over your legal, financial, or healthcare affairs. Unlike a conservatorship, a power of attorney is executed prior to the individual being unable to make their own decisions. The rights of a power of attorney can be wide, and are specified in Tennessee Code 34-6-109. In a power of attorney, the individual still has authority over their own affairs. You may revoke or amend your power of attorney anytime, even after signing it. A power of attorney may be immediate or springing, with the latter not taking effect until two physicians have stated that you are incapacitated or disabled.
Unlike a power of attorney, a conservatorship requires court approval and oversight. This is a procedure in which a judge removes certain rights from the individual (often known as a “Ward”) and grants them to another person, known as the conservator. A conservatorship grants the conservator power over a person’s daily and financial affairs, due to that person’s inability to make their own decisions. The rights of a conservator are also wide, and are specified in Tennessee Code 34-3-107. However, unlike in a power of attorney, a conservatorship strips the individual of all authority to make their own decisions. A conservatorship is often obtained when the individual is incompetent to sign a power of attorney.
It is important to establish your durable power of attorney to avoid the possibility of someone needing to grant conservatorship on your behalf in the future. I encourage you to contact The Pickler Law Firm to set up a consultation with an attorney who can help get your affairs in order, including a power of attorney or conservatorship.