The estate planning process entails a number of crucial documents, one of which is the Durable Power of Attorney. While not everyone needs a Power of Attorney within their estate plan, we’d certainly recommend considering it, thinking about whether it aligns with your personal goals and values. In this post, we’ll offer an overview of what a Durable Power of Attorney is, and why it may prove beneficial.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
To begin with, let’s briefly consider what this important estate planning document actually is, and the role it plays within your broader estate plan.
A Durable Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to ensure your wishes are carried out, even if you become medically incapacitated, cannot care for yourself, or are unable to express your wishes. With your Durable Power of Attorney, you authorize another person to be your legal representative, making decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make them for yourself.
By having a Durable Power of Attorney in place, you can save yourself time and prevent stress; and, you can save your family members from experiencing frustration and uncertainty. For example, what happens if you have a stroke and are unable to speak for yourself? Without a Durable Power of Attorney, your family members may have to go to court and have you declared incompetent before they’re able to help with decision-making on your behalf. But if there is a Durable Power of Attorney in place, you can sidestep this sensitive process altogether.
Financial Power of Attorney vs. Medical Power of Attorney
It’s also worth noting that there are two basic kinds of Power of Attorney: A financial Power of Attorney and a medical Power of Attorney. As you might imagine, these documents bestow different types of authority on the person you name as your legal decision-maker.
With a financial Power of Attorney, you can appoint someone to handle all financial, business, legal, and tax-related matters for you. This may include completing a real estate deal in your name, filing your income tax return, or simply making your monthly mortgage payments.
A medical Power of Attorney, on the other hand, appoints someone to make decisions about your healthcare, should you be unable to make them for yourself. For example, this person might make tough decisions about if and when to suspend life support services, like feeding tubes and breathing machines, in accordance with your wishes.
Durable Power of Attorney vs. Traditional Power of Attorney
Another important consideration involves the distinction between a Durable Power of Attorney and a traditional one.
A traditional Power of Attorney is binding only so long as you have your wits about you; it authorizes someone else to act on your behalf even as you remain very cognizant. For example, if you have a real estate closing in another state but don’t want to make the trip, you can appoint your real estate agent to sign the essential documents for you.
A Durable Power of Attorney works in just the opposite way: It only goes into effect if you become incapacitated, and if you regain consciousness, it will immediately cease being effective.
Ultimately, a Durable Power of Attorney exists to provide peace of mind for you, and a sense of clarity for your family members. That’s why we think it’s an important document to consider within your estate plan.
Contact a Power of Attorney Lawyer
If you have additional questions, we welcome you to contact a Power of Attorney lawyer from our firm.