Following up from my last blog, do you know the definition of a Health Care or Medical Power of Attorney (POA)? It is a document that allows you to appoint a trusted person as your healthcare agent (or surrogate decision maker) who is authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. And then there are “durable” POA’s and the “ordinary” POA. The ordinary power-of-attorney becomes inoperative upon the incapacity of the principal while a durable POA shall not be affected by the subsequent disability or incapacity of the principal or by the lapse of time. Your healthcare agent needs to know your wishes regarding medical treatment and about the quality of life that is important to you. Are there treatments you particularly want to receive or refuse? Would you want to receive treatments such as medical ventilation, antibiotics or other life sustaining remedies for a time, but have them stopped if there were not improvement in your condition? Tough discussions to have, but please give your healthcare agent clarity of your wishes to help give them direction and aid to diminish their potential guilt and anguish as to whether they are doing the right thing.
Preparing for life’s unexpected events can be challenging and many of us do not want to acknowledge our vulnerability. Unfortunately it is not always someone else. A Durable Power of Attorney (POA) for finances enables an individual to appoint an “agent” to act in legal matters on their behalf regarding specific legal and financial responsibilities. It can be written so that the responsibilities transfer immediately or it becomes effective when an individual become incapacitated (Springing POA). It can be a Limited POA for specific tasks as well. That’s all well and good, but why you ask, am I sharing this basic information with you? Planning! I’m all about it and here’s the reason. A durable power of attorney for finances is essential if your elderly parent (or an unmarried brother in Vermont) becomes incapacitated or incompetent. Without preparing such a legal document, family and friends will not be allowed to make important financial decisions. Anyone wishing to undertake such tasks would have to go to court and be officially appointed the person’s guardian. While not required to be prepared by an attorney, I highly recommend that you do speak to your attorney or an estate planner to make sure you and your family have basic legal instruments in place for the state in which you reside.