What Is the Difference Between Power of Attorney & Guardianship?

By Carrie Ferland
What, the Difference, Power, Attorney
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One person can take control of another’s personal affairs in various ways, but two of the most common methods are power of attorney and guardianship. These methods allow differing levels of control.

About Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is an agreement between a principal, who the grants authority, and the agent, who accepts authority. The principal must consent to the agreement for power of attorney to take effect.

About Guardianship

Guardianship is the responsibility that a person, called a guardian, has to care for another person, called a ward, because the latter is unable to care for herself due to age or incapacity.

Differences in How Each is Obtained

While guardianship can be obtain through a court order, an agent can only obtain power of attorney through the willful agreement of the principal. Power of attorney can be revoked at any time by the principal, while a ward cannot terminate his guardianship.

Difference in Powers

Power of attorney limits the agent’s power to what the agreement contains. Guardianship, however, allows the guardian to make all decisions for the ward as the former sees fit for the latter’s care.

Difference in Usage

A principal can grant power of attorney when he feels he is unable to handle his own affairs. Guardianship is granted when a judge deems a ward unable to care for herself, and a guardian is appointed to ensure she receives appropriate care.

About the Author

Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.