A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you give another person legal authority to act for you if you ever become incapacitated.
Types of Powers of Attorney
Limited Powers of Attorney.
Through a limited Power of Attorney you authorize another person to do specific things for you for a limited period of time, or in certain circumstances. The limited Power of Attorney ends if you become incapacitated or die. It also may end at a time that you specify in the document.
General Powers of Attorney.
A general Power of Attorney gives another person the authority to do whatever you can do. Think very carefully before signing this type of document. It should be used sparingly. This document ends when you become incapacitated or die.
Durable Powers of Attorney.
A durable Power of Attorney authorizes your agent to continue to act for you after you become incapacitated. This document ends at your death. It can take effect as soon as you sign it.
Springing Powers of Attorney.
A springing Power of Attorney can be written so it goes into effect if you become incapacitated. Be very careful to define clearly exactly how others will determine that the “springing event” has occurred.
Durable Financial Powers of Attorney.
A durable Financial Power of Attorney allows your agent to carry out financial tasks for you when you cannot do so. This might include paying your bills, managing your property, and handling other money matters.
Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney (Directive)
These documents let you dictate instructions for the type of health care you want to receive, including who should oversee your treatment, if you are unable to communicate these instructions yourself.
A Living Will serves to inform medical personnel that you do not want extra-ordinary measures taken to sustain your life if such measures will only serve to delay the moment of your death.
Healthcare Power of Attorney.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows another person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate your wishes regarding medical treatment.
Planning for Incapacity with Powers of Attorney
Planning for incapacity or disability is important, but many people have no plans or documents in place in the event they become disabled and unable to manage their personal affairs. By creating documents like a Durable Powers of Attorney, Living Will, and Advance Health Care Directive, it is possible for you to have your personal affairs and decisions, including medical and end of life decisions, handled by someone you trust. Failure to plan for incapacity and disability means that a Court supervised Guardian will be making decisions for you.
Disability and incapacity are major problems. However, with a little planning it is possible to make things much easier for yourself and your loved ones during such difficult and stressful times.
When talking with your attorney about your plan for incapacity and disability, make sure you discuss the following:
- Preparation of the necessary legal documents (Powers of Attorney, Living Will, Revocable Living Trust and Health Care Directive)
- Selection of the appropriate agent to act on your behalf
- Preparation of your agent to act if called upon
- Titling of your assets
- Preparation of an overall plan so there is a smooth transition from you to your agent
If you have specific wishes about how you want your remains handled, you should have a burial directive to communicate your wishes to others. Having a “stand-alone” document that provides written burial instructions has several advantages over providing such instructions in your will.