Guardianship and power of attorney, what’s the difference? Usually, we receive calls from individuals who are looking to get power of attorney over an elderly individual, such as a mother or grandmother. These elderly individuals are in need of assistance. Sometimes people call to try and claim power of attorney over children.

In some instances for elders, this can be accomplished. However, there comes a certain point where it is not possible to claim power of attorney over an elderly individual. As for children, it is not possible to claim power of attorney over them. In these cases which power of attorney is not possible, the other option is filing for guardianship. Let’s review what they mean.

Power of Attorney

Power of attorney, or letter of attorney, is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. This document requires the signature of the individual granting the requester power of attorney. This is where the misconception is for some people. There’s a point in which the power of attorney is able to be signed by the individual in need of assistance, but if that point has been passed, it becomes impossible. In order for the power of attorney to be signed by the individual who is the subject matter of granting power of attorney to someone else, that individual has to have the capacity to understand what’s being signed and what the implications are. If the individual no longer has capacity to sign the power of attorney, the requester will need to file for guardianship.


A guardianship is authorization granted by a court of law to appoint someone to look over the life of another person. This is done to assure that decisions are made in the best interest of the individual requiring guardianship. That means making important life decisions, such as where the person lives, what medicine the person is taking and more. This is the option to go toward when an individual is incapacitated to the point where they cannot be eligible to sign the letter of attorney. This is also an option for children. Of course, there are good reasons for that and not so good reasons, which we hope can get remedied.

(Learn more about guardianships and conservatorships by checking out the differences between them)

To understand these differences, Darren Findling explains the interplay between the two, and teaches you the when you would use each one.