Durable Power of Attorney
Virtually everyone needs a durable power of attorney to safeguard their assets during periods of incapacity. This document allows you to authorize another individual to manage your property and finances when you cannot yourself. In this document, you are considered to be the “principal” and the individual to whom you assign the power is your “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.”
Your attorney-in-fact does not have to be a lawyer, but it should be someone you trust a great deal. (While a durable power of attorney enables your agent to take care of your responsibilities for you, it does not restrict you from doing these things on your own).
The word “durable” means that your power of attorney remains valid even if you become incompetent or incapacitated. This is a very important point because without a durable power of attorney for finances, a court proceeding for guardianship or conservatorship is probably inescapable. A costly and largely unnecessary exercise.
You may revoke your durable power of attorney at any time (as long as you are competent). If you do not revoke it, your durable power of attorney ends at your death.
Extreme care should be taken when drafting a durable power of attorney. If it’s not drafted right, you could end up in court or be subjected to financial exploitation.
Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will
A Health Care Directive allows you to: (1) appoint a person known as an agent who can make health care decisions for you; and (2) clearly inform others of your health care wishes.
Your health care directive can appoint anyone over 18 that you trust to make medical decisions for you and tell your physicians, family, and friends what kind of care you wish to receive. For example, it often states whether they should give you life-sustaining treatment if you are in an irreversible coma, persistent vegetative state, or have a terminal condition.
Your health care directive guides your loved ones during difficult times. While it may seem as though you are placing a significant responsibility on the person you chose as your “agent,” not having a health care directive can be much worse. Without your guidance, there may be dissension among your family members as to “who is in charge,” and “what treatment you would want.”
NOTE: You should have an attorney review any older health care documents to make sure they are still valid.