During the course of your life, you may find yourself in a position where you are unable to make important financial or healthcare related decisions due to unforeseen circumstances or various disabilities. To prepare for this possibility, there are a some options available that will protect you and ensure that your wishes are honored.
Most people are familiar with an Advanced Healthcare Directive, sometimes called a Medical Power of Attorney. This document outlines your wishes when it comes to medical decisions such as organ donation or life-extending care. Additionally, this document can establish who you would like to make your medical decisions should you become incapacitated.
Advanced Healthcare Directives can outline your specific wishes and further act as a guide to those you direct to make your healthcare decisions. The appointment of an individual and several successor agents helps protect you and helps medical professionals honor your wishes regarding how you would like to be treated in cases of disability or incapacity.
The counterpart to an Advanced Healthcare Directive is a Power of Attorney (POA). A POA is a document that grants the agent or attorney-in-fact power to act on behalf of the principal in matters regarding finances, legal issues, and property. It does not grant powers related to medical decisions or information. In a POA, the principal can grant specific powers such as the power to retain an attorney or the power to access bank accounts, but they can also deny certain powers to the selected agent.
A POA is used when the principal is either temporarily or permanently disabled, ill, or unable to do essential functions, like signing necessary documents. A POA does not remove the powers to act from the principal necessarily. It simply entitles the agent to act on the behalf of the principal.
There are three major categories of POA: durable, non-durable, and springing. A springing POA takes effect only under specific circumstances such as upon incapacity of the individual. When the principal is able to make decisions again and is no longer incapacitated, the POA no longer is in effect. Opposite that is the non-durable POA. This grants POA to an agent but discontinues upon the incapacity of an individual. The POA that is often most common in
Estate Planning is a durable POA. A durable POA is effective upon signing or upon a triggering event (springing) and then continues in effect from that time on. This means that if the principal is incapacitated or if the POA begins upon signing, the agent is granted the powers outlined in the POA. These powers continue until the POA is revoked or until the principal dies.
Both an Advanced Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney are important documents often involved in Estate Planning. They help you prepare for certain events that may occur during your lifetime. It is important to remember that an Advanced Healthcare Directive and a Power of Attorney are important parts of your estate plan in addition to the other documents.
If you have questions about estate planning or preparing your power of attorney or advanced healthcare directive, we at Sumsion Business Law would be happy to help you plan for your future and your family’s future.