The Difference Between Guardianship and Healthcare Directives


When contemplating your end-of-life options, it’s easy to get caught in the vast array of legal and health care terminology and fine print. These decisions are not always the easiest to make and may even change over time to improve your quality of life and ease the burden on your family.

Guardianship Vs. Healthcare Directives

A common misunderstanding we help clarify is between guardianship and healthcare directives. Here’s how to differentiate these two terms.


Guardianship 2

Guardianship is a legal process used to protect individuals who are unable to care for their own well-being due to infancy, incapacity, or disability. A court will appoint a legal guardian to care for an individual, known as a ward, who is in need of special protection. The legal guardian has the ability to make decisions for the ward, who no longer has the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

A common misconception is that this is only needed for elderly people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s and no longer have the capacity to make decisions. However, this incapacity can also present itself in younger individuals over the age of 18 who have mental health disorders and substance abuse issues.

Mental health disorders that can interfere with the ability to make decisions include bipolardisorder, schizoaffective disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders, dementia, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, long term substance abuse, and PTSD.

If you’re unsure whether or not you should file for guardianship of a loved one, you can contact us today for a free consultation and discuss how we can help your loved one get into treatment, stay in treatment, become medication compliant, and become a functioning person in society again.

Healthcare Directives

A healthcare directive is a written document that informs others of your wishes about your health care. It also allows you to name an agent if you want someone else to decide for youif you are unable to decide. Simply put, you’re letting medical professionals and your family members know in advance what kind of care you want when you’re no longer able to communicate it yourself. Now, here’s where it can get sometimes seem complex because there are four types of healthcare directives:

  • Living Will - a written statement detailing a person's desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent
  • Power of Attorney – a form that allows you to appoint another person to act on your behalf should you ever require someone to make short- or long-term decisions for you
  • Advance Directive - a written statement of a person's wishes regarding medical treatment, often including a living will, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order - a medical order written by a doctor that instructs health care providers not to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a patient's breathing stops or if the patient's heart stops beating

Need Assistancewith Guardianship or Healthcare Directives?

Choosing the best end-of-life path to take or requesting guardianship appointment for a loved one is not the easiest thing to do, but we can help you navigate through your options. At the Law Office of Audra Simovitch, our areas of expertise include Guardianship, Special Needs Trusts, Estate Planning and Asset Protection and more. Contact us today for a free consultation and see how we can help you today.

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