As we get older, it becomes more likely that we will suffer from medical condition that affects our physical health or cognitive abilities. That is why it is so important to assign decision making power to another person by creating a power of attorney (POA). The person you choose (referred to as your ‘agent’) will be able to step in on your behalf if you ever get to the point where you can no longer make informed decisions for yourself.
Generally, an estate plan will include both a financial POA and medical POA.
- Financial POA: Allows the agent to participate in financial or business transactions on your behalf.
- Medical POA: Allows agent to make decisions on your behalf regarding your medical care.
In most cases, these power of attorneys will be durable, and therefore, will stay in effect even after you become incapacitated. The POA will end upon your death or if you regain capacity and choose to revoke it.
Choosing a POA
Legally, as long as you are of sound mind, you can choose any competent adult (18 or older) to be your POA agent. Many people automatically choose a spouse or other close family member. However, experts advise choosing someone who will ensure your wishes are met, even if they personally disagree with your decisions. You should choose someone you can fully trust who is able and willing to handle stressful situations.
It is important that you make sure you meet all state requirements when making your POA to ensure its validity. An estate planning attorney in your area can assist in the process and make sure you are well protected.