Your Family Matters

The difference between guardianships and powers of attorney

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2021 | Estate Planning

When your parents age, you may start noticing that they have a harder time managing specific affairs than they did earlier in life. If things get to the point where you have genuine concerns about a parent’s emotional, physical or financial well-being, you may need to step in and take action.

Per AARP, you may decide to do so through either a power of attorney or guardianship, among other options. The two arrangements have some critical fundamental differences, and the more you understand about each, the more likely you are to make an informed decision about what may work best for your mom or dad.

Powers of attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that enables you to make certain decisions for your parent. Your parent must be of sound mind when signing a power of attorney, meaning they must understand that they are giving certain rights to someone else. Different powers of attorney exist. You may need one to help manage your mother or father’s finances, for example, or you may need a separate one to make healthcare decisions.


If your parent becomes incapacitated and never created a power of attorney, you may need to establish a guardianship to make decisions on his or her behalf. A guardianship involves your parent surrendering some of his or her rights, and the court must believe that your parent is no longer capable of managing his or her own affairs to approve a guardianship arrangement.

When it comes time to step in and assist your parents with their decisions, it is essential to talk to a qualified professional. A skilled attorney can help you come up with an enforceable agreement to help your aging parents.