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A quick look at the difference between conservatorship and power of attorney

One of the tools commonly used to address the needs of adults with mental health challenges is the conservatorship. As readers may know, a conservatorship is a court-appointed arrangement in which a conservator is empowered to make decisions regarding a protected person’s property and financial affairs. Conservatorship appointments allow families to help ensure a family member with mental health issues is taken care of from a financial perspective.

Conservatorship appointments require court involvement and there are costs. Because conservatorships are rather intrusive for an adult and all-encompassing in the authority they provide, they are not ideal in every situation involving an adult family member with mental health issues. Less restrictive alternatives exist which may be more appropriate in some circumstances. One of these alternatives is a power of attorney appointment. 

Power of Attorney appointments involve an individual who manages the financial affairs of a principal. Power of attorneys give an adult with mental health issues the ability to determine who they will appoint to act on their behalf, when the authority of that trusted individual will go into effect, and the extent of that authority.

A power of attorney need not go into effect immediately nor terminate upon the principal’s incapacity. When a power of attorney is durable, the appointed individual is able to act on behalf of the principal even after the principal becomes incapacitated and unable to manage his or her financial affairs. When a power of attorney is springing, the appointed individual’s authority doesn’t go into effect until the principal is incapacitated.

Both power of attorney appointments and conservatorships have their place in caring for a loved one with mental health issues. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help families to determine not only the best arrangement for their situation, but also to ensure they have sound guidance in establishing the desired arrangement.

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The Law Offices of Kimberly Butler Rainen
21 Central Street
Andover, MA 01810

Phone: 978-494-6730
Phone: 978-409-1928
Fax: 978-849-8212
Map & Directions

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We are in a 1700s Colonial located on the intersection between Brook Street, Central Street and Essex Street in historic downtown Andover, Massachusetts. The parking lot entrance is located on Brook Street, which is a one-way. From Central, turn down Essex Street. Before reaching the railroad tracks, when you see the St. Augustine Church on your right, take a sharp left turn on to Brook Street, which will turn you back toward Central Street. As you ascend the hill back toward Central Street, you will see large stone pillars on either side of the entrance to our parking lot. We have assigned parking spaces numbered 7 and 10.

From the parking lot, you may take the stairs located on the rear, left-side of the building up to the garden area, where the foyer entrance to our office is located. You can also follow the sidewalk on Brook Street up to Central Street, walk along Central Street past the main house entrance (with a wrought iron gate across the walk way) to an opening in the wrought iron fence, in to the garden area where the foyer entrance to our office is located.