Differences Between a Conservatorship and Power of Attorney

Due to a number of circumstances, it may be beneficial or even necessary to have a person capable of making decisions or acting on behalf of another. A power of attorney or conservatorship can be very beneficial as each one of these legal actions has the ability to allocate decision making authority or power to another individual. The person granted power is then enabled to perform actions like paying bills, executing documents, or managing property depending on the scope of authority given. Although a conservatorship and a power of attorney can sometimes serve the same purpose, there are a number of differences that distinguish the two from one another. However, it is important to understand what the differences are in having a conservatorship versus a power of attorney. If you have questions regarding a conservatorship or power of attorney in Tennessee, contact The Higgins Firm.

Power of Attorney

Specifically, a power of attorney is a legal form that allocates the right to make certain decisions on another’s behalf. It is important to note that the individual still retains his or her ability to make decisions. The power of attorney can often be limited in scope to making either financial or health care decisions on the individual’s behalf. However, a general power of attorney can also include a much broader set of powers that are not limited to certain areas. In addition, a power of attorney may limit that authority to a set period of time or certain circumstances. For example, a power of attorney may grant authority only in the event that the individual is considered incapacitated by a medical professional. A power of attorney is executed outside of any courtroom setting and does not require any judge’s approval. Often a power of attorney can be a less costly method of allocating such authority. However, for a power of attorney to be valid, the individual granting authority must have the capacity and intent to grant the power to another individual. Without the capacity to allocate authority, the document cannot be valid and cannot transfer any power or authority.


A conservatorship is a legal proceeding in which a judge removes certain rights from a “disabled” individual, known as the ward, and grants those rights to the person known as the conservator. The court determines which powers may be given to the conservator which can include power over the ward’s person, property, or both. Although the ward’s opinion may be a factor in certain decisions, the ultimate decisions are made by the conservator in light of what is best for the ward. A conservatorship is most often used in cases where the individual is mentally, physically, or emotionally unable to care for him or herself. This may include an elderly individual who has been diagnosed with dementia or even a person who is battling substance abuse issues. A conservatorship does not have any time restrictions. Rather, a conservatorship typically lasts from the time of appointment until the ward’s death or until the court has determined that the individual is no longer “disabled” under the law. The ward’s capacity or lack thereof has no effect on the appointment of a conservator. Because a conservatorship involves a legal proceeding, it typically involves more costs and expenses than a power of attorney.

Contact The Higgins Firm

If you have questions regarding the need for a power of attorney or a conservatorship, be sure to contact the Nashville conservatorship lawyers at The Higgins Firm. Our team of Nashville based attorneys would be happy to answer your questions regarding a conservatorship or power of attorney in Tennessee.