What happens if an accident, injury, or illness leaves you unable to speak or to articulate your wishes? How will you inform your doctors about key healthcare decisions, or consult with your attorneys and financial planners about important business affairs?
While none of us ever think we’ll end up in a scenario like this, the reality is that such catastrophic accidents can happen to any of us, and at any time. Through proper estate planning, you can be prepared even for this unfortunate contingency. And one specific way to do that is by having a durable power of attorney in place.
What is a Power of Attorney?
What are we talking about when we mention a power of attorney? Basically, it’s a legal document you fill out, appointing another individual to act in your place. In other words, it’s a way for you to name your legal representative, someone to make decisions for you in those instances where you cannot make them yourself.
When we talk about a durable power of attorney, we simply mean that the document remains effective if you become incapacitated or unable to make decision on your own. (A non-durable power of attorney may end in certain circumstances.)
What Kinds of Power of Attorney Are There?
There are a couple of primary options to think about as you consider a power of attorney: Medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney.
You can probably make a reasonable guess as to where the distinction lies. A medical power of attorney is someone you appoint to make healthcare decisions in your stead, including decisions about when to remove respirators, feeding tubes, and other life-saving equipment.
A financial power of attorney, meanwhile, appoints someone who can handle financial and business affairs on your behalf.
Note that you may wish to have both kinds of power of attorney in place, which will require you to have separate documents. Ask your power of attorney lawyer for additional information.
Power of Attorney Rights and Limitations
The primary responsibilities associated with a power of attorney are simply to make decisions that are in your best interests when you are unable to make them yourself. Within those parameters, there may be different rights and limitations, as specified by the particular power of attorney document in place. Again, you can talk with a power of attorney lawyer about specifics.
When thinking about power of attorney rights and limitations, it’s important to note that:
- The appointed agent must make decisions that are in keeping with the legal document itself.
- The appointed agent can be held legally responsible for any act of fraud or negligence.
- The appointed agent is not allowed to make changes to your will, nor to hand over power of attorney duties to anyone you have not so named.
There’s clearly a lot to think about with regard to serving as someone’s power of attorney. Likewise, there are a number of factors to consider as you select someone to be your power of attorney.
Choosing Someone to Serve as Your Power of Attorney
As you think about who to appoint as your legal agent, you want to pick someone who will be responsible, and who you trust to put your best interests first. Ideally, you can find someone who:
- Exhibits keen attention to detail;
- Understands the duties (and limitations) of serving in this role;
- Has some basic understanding of finance and business (particularly when choosing a financial power of attorney); and
- Can collaborate with attorneys or financial advisors if need be.
The person you choose may be a family member, a close friend, or anyone in whom you have a lot of trust… for example, your clergyman, an accountant, or a lawyer.
Further Questions About Estate Planning?
If you have any additional questions about powers of attorney or wish to implement some new estate planning initiatives of your own, we welcome you to contact Singh Law Firm.
Our team is here to assist with any of your estate planning needs, including helping you complete a power of attorney document. Reach out to us directly and let’s talk together about your estate planning needs.