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Helping You Navigate Complex Legal Issues

How are power of attorney and conservatorship different?

Gregory A. Lang

Many in Hennepin realize that they may reach a point in their lives where they are unable to make decisions and care for themselves. When you reach this point, the question then becomes will you stipulate who has the right to act in your behalf, or will that decision be made by someone else? This is at the heart of the difference between the concepts of power of attorney and conservatorships.

Power of attorney describes the authority that you bestow upon another to make important decisions for you regarding issues such as your health and your finances. You can choose to limit the authority granted through power attorney to only certain aspects of your life, or for a certain time frame. As long as you remain competent, you can even choose to revoke power of attorney. The authority becomes durable if you become incapacitated.

The important thing to remember with power of attorney is that you decide to whom decision-making power will be granted prior to your becoming incapacitated. If incapacity strikes you before you get the chance to delegate this authority, then the power to do so falls to the court. This is what’s known as a conservatorship. In this instance, you have no say over who is given authority over your affairs. In many cases, your children will often petition the court to be granted conservatorship over you.

So which of the two roles holds more power? According to Minnesota law, the decision of a conservator overrules that of one who has been granted power of attorney. The law goes on to state that should he or she so choose, a conservator can even revoke power of attorney privileges. 

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