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Total Life Choices (TLC) provides free legal services to promote and protect the dignity of each individual.  TLC attorneys and volunteers empower individuals in articulating and documenting crucial lifetime, incapacity, and end-of-life choices through education and legal planning.  TLC counsels families on complex court procedures for probate, administration and guardianship.



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Total Life Choices (TLC)
New York Legal Assistance Group
7 Hanover Square, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004

Phone: (212) 613-5000
Fax: (212) 714-7402


Q: What is the difference between a Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy and Guardianship?

A:  These are three separate items and are not substitutes for one another.  A Power of Attorney allows an individual (the principal) to choose a trusted person (the agent) who will be given the legal authority to act on the principal’s behalf for specific financial and property transactions of the principal’s choosing.  The Power of Attorney is effective during the principal’s life only.  A Power of Attorney can only be created by a principal if he or she is competent, but remains in effect if the principal later becomes incapacitated.

A Health Care Proxy allows an individual to choose a trusted person (the agent) to make medical decisions for the individual only when that individual cannot communicate his or her own decisions.  As long as the individual is competent and can communicate, the Health Care Proxy does not come into effect.

Guardianship is a court process by which a person (the guardian) is chosen to legally make decisions for a person (the ward) who is not able to make his or her own decisions. There are several types of guardianship proceedings. The guardian handles personal, financial, property and any other responsibilities for the ward that are necessary and that are granted by the court. If the ward had executed a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy prior to becoming incapacitated, guardianship would most likely not be necessary.

With a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, the individual chooses his or her agent through use of a legal document while the individual is still competent.  With Guardianship, the court chooses the agent/guardian on behalf of the individual through a court proceeding that occurs after the individual becomes incompetent.

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Total Life Choices provides free legal education seminars and trainings on legal planning to community groups and medical and social service professionals. To schedule a TLC presentation, contact Tina Janssen-Spinosa, Esq. at (212) 613-5062 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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