Powers of Attorney and Living Wills
A power of attorney is document that allows one person (the agent) to act on behalf of another person (the principal). Those decisions can be financial, personal, or health-related. These can be vital documents if you become unable to make decisions for yourself because of an injury or illness. If you have powers of attorney in place, you decide who will care for you and manage your assets. If you do not have these documents in place, your loved ones may need to go to court and have you declared incompetent in order to care for you and your affairs.
In your Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA), you name a person or a series of people (your health care agent) to make health care decisions for you when you cannot. Your doctor will determine when you are unable to make or communicate your health care decisions and will look to your health care agent to make decisions on your behalf. Your health care agent also may make decisions about where you live and who your health care providers should be.
Your Living Will sets forth your wishes about life-sustaining treatment. We build your living will into your HCPOA so that your end of life decisions are clearly described to your health care agent.
A Financial or General Power of Attorney (POA) names the person or series of people (your financial agent) who can pay your bills, manage your assets and generally handle your financial affairs. Your health care agent and your financial agent can be the same person, or different people. You decide. You also decide when your power of attorney becomes effective. Your POA can be immediately effective so that you can have a trusted person do financial errands at your direction. For example, if you are out of town and when your signature is required, your POA allows your agent to sign your name. You may decide that you do not want anyone else to have the authority to sign your name as long as you are able to do that yourself. In that case, you can have a “springing” POA that only becomes effective upon your subsequent incapacity or mental incompetence.
We will help you decide which documents are best suited for your needs. A durable power of attorney must contain certain language and be registered in the register of deeds in the county that is designated in the document itself. If no such county is designated, then the proper county is the county in which the principal has his legal residence at the time of registration.
Some clients use a revocable trust to plan for disability, naming a trustee to take over trust administration if the client becomes incapacitated. Any assets that were transferred into the trust prior to the incapacity could be managed by the successor trustee without the intervention of any court. This is a private alternative to court-supervised incompetence and guardianship proceedings, and can be used in addition to a power of attorney.