Powers of Attorney are one of the most important documents that an individual could have drafted for their benefit. A power of attorney is a document appointing an individual to act on your behalf. The two types of powers of attorney that we suggest having are a General Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney. If an individual has both of these documents in place, they are much less likely to find themselves dealing with a guardianship or other decision making issues.
It is important for every person who has executed and signed a power of attorney to understand what exactly that document will do for them. Powers of Attorney are revocable and work only during the signor’s life. Once the person passes, estate documents are in control. Listing an alternate POA in the document should something happen to the POA is essential. You should make sure that you are appointing someone who understands and respects your beliefs. They will be required to act on your behalf should you ever be unable to do so.
A General Durable Power of Attorney appoints an individual to make decisions on the individual’s behalf regarding all things financial. This includes, but is not limited to, communicating with banks, collecting funds, paying bills, selling or transferring property, establishing trusts, and managing online accounts. It is important to understand that you want the POA document that you have to be specific and clear in making sure it will benefit you as you age. This would include language allowing the POA to apply for public benefits, hiring attorneys to assist in representation, and gifting provisions. The “durable” language of this document is very important. The durability will allow for the POA to act even if you are incompetent.
A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints an individual to make decisions on the individual’s behalf regarding medical decisions. This will include both consenting to and declining treatment on the patient’s behalf. With the implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Action of 1996 (HIPAA), it is very important that your document will allow medical providers to communicate to your POA. When appointing a Health Care Power of Attorney it is important to have certain discussions about potential medical and care concerns to ensure that the POA is making the types of decisions you would agree with.
You are never too old or too young to have these documents. Younger individuals are just as likely to require the use of a POA. It is also valuable to know that even though you may have a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, it does not mean that you lack the capacity to sign a POA. You should start pre-planning immediately so you can have everything in place should the time come when you cannot make decisions.
Form documents do not work for everyone and you should make sure to have them reviewed by a lawyer. Consulting with a lawyer who understands what should or should not be included in documents such as these can be very beneficial.