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What’s a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone you choose the power to act in your place. With a valid power of attorney, the trusted person you name will be legally permitted to take care of important matters for you — for example, paying your bills, managing your investments, or directing your medical care — if you are unable to do so yourself.

What if an accident or illness — or simply the effects of aging — left you unable to tell your doctors what kind of medical treatment you want, or made it impossible to manage your financial affairs? No one likes to consider such grim possibilities, but almost every family will eventually face this kind of situation. While medical and financial powers of attorney can’t prevent accidents or keep you in good health, they can certainly make life easier for you and your family if times get tough.

Taking the time to make these documents is well worth the small effort it will take. If you haven’t made durable powers of attorney and something happens to you, your loved ones may have to go to court to get the authority to handle your affairs.

Types of Powers of Attorney

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney or Advanced Healthcare Directive: A health care power of attorney grants your trusted individual authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unconscious, mentally incompetent, or otherwise unable to make decisions on your own. While not the same thing as a living will, you are permitted to include your preference about being kept on life support in your Healthcare Power of Attorney (“HCPOA”) which in turn would make it an Advanced Healthcare Directive.  Read more          
  • Durable Power of Attorney: A general power of attorney is one that allows the agent to make all personal and business decisions. Under the common law, a power of attorney becomes ineffective if its grantor dies or becomes “incapacitated,” meaning unable to grant such a power, because of physical injury or mental illness. A Durable Power of Attorney (“DPOA”) continues throughout an individuals incapacity and in effect the authority of the trusted individual to act and/or make decisions on behalf of the grantor continues until the grantor’s death.
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