A power of attorney is a legal document giving one person—the “agent”—the legal power to make legal, financial, or medical decisions for another person. According to a recent article from Nerd Wallet, “What is a Power of Attorney (POA)? Types, How, When to Use,” the POA lets someone act on your behalf if you are traveling, too sick to act on your own behalf or can’t be present to sign legal documents.
You may name any adult, including your spouse, adult child, sibling, or a trusted friend, to act as your agent under power of attorney. It can be granted to anyone who is a legal adult and of sound mind. Ordinary power of attorney designations dissolve if you become incapacitated. However, durable power of attorney designations remain intact, even upon incapacity.
You can give one person power of attorney or divide the responsibilities among multiple people.
Most people don’t know that POA authorizations can be very specific or general, depending on your needs. When having an experienced estate planning attorney draft a power of attorney, review the desired scope of your agent’s authority, when it should take effect and the desired duration.
If you don’t have a power of attorney and become incapacitated, a court can appoint someone to act on your behalf. However, court intervention turns a private matter into a public proceeding, and you cannot know if the appointed conservator will follow your wishes.
There are several types of power of attorney. The durable power of attorney remains intact, even when you are incapacitated. The ordinary power of attorney becomes moot once you are incapacitated. A dual power of attorney gives authority to two people and requires both individuals to sign off on any decisions.
A dual power of attorney may be helpful if you have two children, for instance, and you’d like them to make joint decisions. Regardless of how many powers of attorney you appoint, you should always name successor agents for each power of attorney in case the primary person is unable or unwilling to serve when needed.
A medical power of attorney, also called a health care proxy, is a type of advance directive giving another person to make all health care decisions for you, following your wishes when you cannot. Healthcare proxy decisions generally cover any medical treatment or procedure to diagnose and treat your health. Ensure the person you grant medical power of attorney is familiar with your wishes and knows what decisions you want in treatment or life—supporting measures.
Reference: Nerd Wallet (May 10, 2023) “What is a Power of Attorney (POA)? Types, How, When to Use”
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