Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that names an agent to act on your behalf. This person, known as an “attorney-in-fact” or power of attorney, can be authorized to act in many different situations and act for one time or all the time. For example, you may give power of attorney to someone, so they can sign your name to a check when you are out of town.

What Types of Power of Attorneys Exist?

There are four different types of power of attorney. You can choose anyone you want to be your power of attorney, even yourself. The power of attorney you choose will depend on your needs.

Limited Power of Attorney

A limited power of attorney may be limited to one or more specific acts, at any time during your lifetime. This power automatically terminates if you become incapacitated.

Health Care Power of Attorney? AKA: Healthcare Surrogate

A power of attorney for health care is a document that designates someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so and is also known as healthcare surrogate, power of attorney for health care proxy, power of attorney for medical purposes, or simply power of attorney for healthcare. It authorizes your agent to make all health care decisions for you according to your instructions, and all healthcare surrogates should include a healthcare directive and HIPPA release.

You should name someone you trust as power of attorney for health care, but it should not be the same person that serves as power of attorney for finances. Your agent must be someone you trust to act in your best interests, who isn’t biased by trying to benefit from your possible death (such as a caregiver paid by the state).

Your power of attorney for health care will make decisions according to your wishes. For example, if you are unable to communicate or make decisions, your power of attorney for health care can decide whether or not you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops beating, who you should live with and what treatments you would like to receive.

A power of attorney, including power of attorney for health care, does not apply in the case of death. You should name someone to serve as power of attorney for finances and healthcare in different documents.

A power of attorney for health care is effective immediately upon signing, and you can revoke power of attorney at any time. Still, your power of attorney must be aware that you have revoked the power of attorney for health care.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney this power may be exercised during your incapacity and does not automatically terminate when you become incapacitated.

Springing Power of Attorney

A springing power of attorney does not take effect until a certain event happens, such as your mental incompetency or physical disability. You can set out specific conditions here as well.

General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney allows the person to manage and control all of your assets and finances when you cannot.

If a power of attorney expires, but you are still alive, they may act on your behalf in any act not yet taken. Even if you become incapacitated or die, this power may remain in effect until there is a determination that it is no longer needed.

Who Can Act as a Power of Attorney?

You may name any person you want to be your power of attorney, and there is no requirement that a power of attorney must be a family member, a lawyer, a doctor, or someone with special skills.

However, a power of attorney must be of legal age and mentally competent or an organization such as a bank or trust company. It cannot be someone convicted of a felony involving theft or fraud unless the power of attorney’s conviction is reversed.

How To Choose a Power of Attorney?

It is important to choose a power of attorney who understands your wishes and someone you trust enough to make decisions in your best interest. Your power of attorney should be honest and loyal since you cannot serve as your own power of attorney if it’s determined that you have been diagnosed with psychosis or have been declared incompetent by a state court judge.

You may also wish to consider having two different power of attorneys, perhaps your power of attorney for health care should be your spouse, and power of attorney for finances should be someone else. This may reduce the stress on your power of attorney who manages both issues.

Once you have selected one or more power of attorney, it’s important to discuss your power of attorney with them, gather their input regarding medical treatment, personal care, and financial management.

What Is a Power of Attorney Agent Responsible for?

Your power of attorney is responsible for:

  • Making health care decisions for you, such as resuscitation and life support, and determining where you should receive medical treatment.
  • Determining where you should live (for example, in an assisted living facility or nursing home) and who you should live with (a friend or family member).
  • Applying for government benefits that you are qualified to receive.
  • Paying your debts, taxes, and other expenses.
  • Participating in estate planning to ensure the smooth transition of your property when you die.

What Is a Power of Attorney Agent Responsible for?

Your power of attorney is responsible for:

  • Making health care decisions for you, such as resuscitation and life support, and determining where you should receive medical treatment.
  • Determining where you should live (for example, in an assisted living facility or nursing home) and who you should live with (a friend or family member).
  • Applying for government benefits that you are qualified to receive.
  • Paying your debts, taxes, and other expenses.
  • Participating in estate planning to ensure the smooth transition of your property when you die.

When creating a power of attorney, it’s essential to have it prepared and reviewed by an attorney to make sure it follows the state law and uses the correct one for your specific needs because doing it wrong can lead to serious consequences.

Why Retain an Attorney?

Drafting a power of attorney is a serious process, so it’s essential to have an attorney draw one up for you and can also explain what each provision in your power of attorney means and how they should affect your decisions, “what if” scenarios, provide advice on the legal consequences if you make different choices, for example, refusing medical treatment.

An attorney may also help with the following:

  • Review and offer advice on the attorney-in-fact’s authority under your power of attorney.
  • Create a durable power of attorney that provides the attorney-in-fact with access to funds outside of court during an emergency such as accidents, injuries, illnesses, or incapacity so you can pay your medical bills, daily expenses, and other debts.
  • Explain when it is appropriate to use your attorney-in-fact when making decisions on your behalf.
  • Review the attorney-in-fact’s authority under your power of attorney if there are disagreements between interested parties or even family members who may vie for control over your life.
  • The attorney who drafts your power of attorney can also help you determine if it is appropriate to name multiple attorneys-in-fact and how they should work together.

When creating a power of attorney, it’s essential to have it prepared and reviewed by an attorney to make sure it follows the state law and that you are using the correct one for your specific needs because doing it wrong can lead to serious consequences

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