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What’s the Difference Between a Power of Attorney and a Conservator?

Adulting is hard sometimes! Many adult responsibilities – even mundane ones – are necessary to fulfill your obligations: paying monthly bills, filing tax returns, purchasing/maintaining/selling a home or automobile, making/managing investments, etc. We often take for granted our ability to manage such tasks – even if they are not always easy or fun to do. Especially when we are younger and feel invincible, the need to set up protection for the handling of these affairs may seem like overkill.

The truth is, we never know what the future holds for our mental or physical health. Although no one wants to think about it, disease, accidents, trauma and even addiction can drastically alter our abilities to control our own financial affairs. However, help with your financial decisions can be arranged if you need it.

• If you are planning ahead, you can designate an agent under power of attorney as part of a comprehensive estate plan. You choose this person BEFORE you become unable to handle your financial affairs due to mental or physical incapacitation. Examples may include dementia, mental illness, physical injury or disability, coma, etc. You can specify that the power of attorney only be authorized to handle certain financial tasks on your behalf – or the person can be given complete responsibility for your financial affairs if needed. You get to make that determination.
• If you become suddenly incapacitated and have not designated an agent under power of attorney, it may be necessary for the court to appoint a conservator AFTER you become incapacitated. A friend or family member will have to petition the court to have a conservator put into place because you may be unable to do so yourself. A conservator in Colorado will be appointed to handle your financial affairs and filing forms with the court. This appointment may only continue for a short time or for the rest of your life, depending on the severity of your condition.

Both an agent under power of attorney and a conservator step in to handle many of your adulting responsibilities while you are still alive. Both need to keep detailed records of their transactions on your behalf (conservators must report the transactions to the court). Both must act in the protected person’s best interests.

If you want control over who will be handling your financial affairs, it is advisable to name an agent under power of attorney as part of a comprehensive estate plan while you are physically and mentally healthy. That way, you can rest assured that your finances will be handled by a trusted friend or family member who will know your wishes better than anyone else.
To learn more about estate planning in Denver, including powers of attorney and conservatorships, contact The Brown Law Firm, LLC to arrange an appointment: (303) 339-3750 or visit our website.