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Powers of Attorney – Health Care Power of Attorney

Individuals who have planned ahead and made decisions how they would like their estate to be carried out often do not consider what might happen if they were to get in an accident and become disabled or are rendered mentally incompetent by age or disease.  This topic may be unpleasant to consider, but planning ahead can make the situation more manageable. Having a medical power of attorney (Health Care Power of Attorney), is an important part of the estate planning process.  A medical power of attorney is considered a springing power of attorney, which means it will only take effect when a person becomes incapacitated, or physically unable to communicate their wishes and only for as long as the circumstance persists.   It has no authority while the principal is of sound mind and body.   It is usually created to avert loss of valuable time during an emergency situation and to make certain the principal’s decision in regards to life support is carried out.  Because not all situations are foreseeable, the power of attorney gives the agent power to make decisions best for the principal.  A medical power of attorney can include a list of treatments and procedures to which the principal gives his/her consent and also those which he/she does not allow.  It will also give your agent the power to authorize the screening medical records.  This is why you should choose someone who will carry out your wishes regarding medical decisions.  You should as well communicate beforehand, with your agent your wishes so that there is no question as to the principal’s intent.  However, a medical power of attorney does not give the agent power to make any financial decisions of any kind which is why you will need to set up a Durable Power of Attorney in addition to a Health Care Power of Attorney.

Powers of Attorney – Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney gives permission to your agent to take legal actions on your behalf.  It basically creates a carbon copy of you for all legal and contractual purposes.    A durable power of attorney is an agreement which is set up between you, called the principal, and another person, called your agent to act for you in an agreed upon manner.   Some of the uses of a durable power of attorney may include banking, investing, insurance, or real estate.  The real force behind a “durable” power of attorney rather than a “general” power of attorney lies in the fact it can become effective if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. The reason why you would want to create one is in case you can’t make decisions for you either by reason of being mentally incapacitated, on life support or possibly being out of the country.  It allows you to be for legal purposes, in two places at the same time.  It can give you peace of mind knowing that your agent can make your decisions for you on your behalf regarding most things with a legal significance and can help take care of the principal and his/her property.

A common misunderstanding is that a durable power of attorney also gives your agent power to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to do so.  Actually a separate Power of Attorney called a health care power of attorney or medical power of Attorney is required for an agent to be able to make health care decisions.