How do I Know if I Need a Power of Attorney or a Guardianship?

Ideally, a person should execute a durable financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney, and possible a living will as well, while the person is still competent, appointing an individual to make decisions on his behalf in financial and health care matters once the person is no longer able to do so.  However, if a person does not execute financial and health care powers of attorney and becomes mentally impaired and unable to take proper care of himself or his property, then a guardianship becomes necessary.  Mental impairment can be the result of mental retardation/developmental disabilities, mental illness, substance abuse, dementia, or other causes.