Don’t wait until a crisis happens to update to your Power of Attorney — do it now.
Life happens, and things change. People that we were once close may move away, or sometimes conflict separates us. If something like this happens with the person you gave a Power of Attorney to, it can cause problems.
If a crisis occurs before you’ve updated your Power of Attorney, it will create unnecessary stress and confusion.
Let us help you avoid these uncomfortable situations by showing you how to update your Power of Attorney today.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in healthcare decisions, private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. The person who authorizes the other to act is the principal, grantor, or donor of the power.
If you don't have a proper Power of Attorney in place, a judge will make decisions for you should you become unable to make your own.
It’s vital you name someone you love or, more importantly, trust — someone with your best interests in mind — as your power of attorney. Otherwise, you don’t know who may decide your fate.
Types of Power of Attorney You Can Have
If you give someone a Power of Attorney, your attorney-in-fact also called an agent, acts on behalf of you when you can’t. There are different types of Powers of Attorney. The type you use when you assign your agent will determine what they can do and how much they can act for you.
There are six basic types of power of attorney.
General Power of Attorney
- Allows the agent to do nearly anything for you, including managing finances, opening, and closing bank accounts.
- Terminates when you pass away, revoke it, or become incapacitated.
Durable Power of Attorney
It allows the agent to do anything a general power of attorney could do.
But has a durable clause keeping the arrangement if you become incapacitated.
Limited Power of Attorney
It allows the agent to perform a certain task.
An example of this is selling your home or purchasing a vehicle in your name.
Medical Power of Attorney
It allows an agent the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal. The
Medical POA is considered to be a “limited” POA, as it is limited to medical decisions only.
Financial Power of Attorney
It allows an agent the authority to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of the principal.
This too is another type of “limited” POA.
Springing Durable Power of Attorney
It allows the agent to do nearly anything on your behalf.
- It “springs” into action after a certain, agreed upon, incapacitating event.
What Can a Power of Attorney Do?
When you name someone as your power of attorney, you give them legal permission to deal with any of your financial institutes and medical teams as if they are you.
Here is a short list of things that your agent will be able to do with a power of attorney.
- Act on your behalf at financial institutions
- Buy or lease property in your name
- Make medical decisions for you
- Take temporary custody of your children
- Receive your mail
Mostly, anything that you can do, your agent will be able to do with a power of attorney.
But something to note is that one thing a Power of Attorney cannot do is take away your power to act. A Power of Attorney is not the same thing as a Conservatorship, where the court takes away your ability to make decisions after you have become incapacitated.
When Do You Need a Power of Attorney?
You need a Power of Attorney when you need someone else to be making decisions for you. In situations where you are unable to communicate your wishes, a Power of Attorney will communicate them for you.
If you cannot make medical decisions for yourself, you need a Power of Attorney to legally allow a person you choose to make those decisions for you, according to your wishes.
You also would need a Power of Attorney grant a trusted agent to sign financial documents on your behalf.
Who Can Act as My Power of Attorney?
You cannot list someone as a power of attorney who is incapacitated themselves. They will be unable to perform the tasks asked of them. But other than that, there are few limits on who can be your agent.
Anyone can act as a power of attorney as long as they are over 18. But most people choose their spouse, children, or a close relative to be their agent.
It is best to consider more than just your relationship, though. In the case of a power of attorney, trust, integrity, and responsibility are more important than how close you are to someone.
How Can I Update My Power of Attorney?
The best way to update your power of attorney is to speak with an Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney. Their team will offer advice and guide you through the entire process.
If you find yourself in a position where you need to terminate the powers you gave your agent, you can file a Revocation of Power of Attorney. The termination is valid once the agent is notified.
Or if you become incapacitated and your family members are concerned that your agent is not acting on your best intentions, they can hire an attorney to contest it.
You will need to store a copy of all legal documents associated with the Revocation of Power of Attorney in a safe place. This document will act as evidence of your intentions, should they ever be questioned.
Is Power of Attorney the Only Document I Need?
A Power of Attorney is not the same thing as a Will or a Medical Directive. You will need separate documents for these.
A Power of Attorney can legally authorize someone to make medical decisions for you. If you want to ensure your personal choices for end-of-life treatment are honored and that your assets are appropriately divided, you will need to have the following documents prepared.
Living Will is a legal document that outlines your choices for end-of-life medical treatments, such as medications and interventions. With a living will, you can refuse things like resuscitation, feeding tubes, organ donation, and or breathing machines.
This ensures things are done according to your wishes. It clarifies how you want your Power of Attorney agent to handle these situations. No matter what, even if your agent doesn’t follow through, this outlines your wishes, so it is recommended that you have one.
Last Will and Testament is the legal document that will help lawyers know how to handle your estate. This document designates how to distribute what assets you might have and is the last word in any subsequent disputes.
Without a last Will and Testament, your property will be distributed by the state upon your death. Your Power of Attorney agent may express your wishes, but they may not be honored.
5 Essentials to Consider When Choosing a Power of Attorney
Relationships are not the most important thing when considering who to select as your Power of Attorney agent. Instead of picking who you are closest to, you need to consider who you can trust the most.
In the list below, you will find several things to think about as you choose your agent.
- Trustworthy You need to know your agent is honest with you and will act with integrity on your behalf.
- Reliability: The person you pick should be someone who will perform the tasks they need to do, both dependably and on time.
- Financial Management Skills Your Financial POA agent must understand budgets and have a track record of fiscal responsibility to ensure your money and assets are handled correctly.
- Detail Oriented You’ll need someone who pays attention to details. Someone meticulous who won’t overlook something crucial.
- Assertiveness You also need to select someone willing to stand up for you and act as your advocate.
Whoever you choose, make sure you consider all of these things. Fairness and familial relationships aren’t as important as picking someone who will do the job.
Before you can update your Power of Attorney, you need to make sure you understand the Power of Attorney but also how to select the perfect agent to act on your behalf. Let’s do a quick recap all about the Power of Attorney so you can decide what is best for you.
- A Power of Attorney is a legal document allowing an agent to act on your behalf. There are different types of power of attorneys, and it’s best to discuss with your lawyer which type suits your needs.
- You need a Power of Attorney if you are unable to make decisions or be present to sign documents for yourself. But a Power of Attorney is not the only document you will need to ensure your end-of-life decisions are met.
- Anyone over 18 can be named as your agent, but there are five essential things you should consider when you appoint someone: trust, reliability, financial management skills, detail orientation, and assertiveness.
- You can update your power of attorney easily. All you need is your lawyer’s help to file a Revocation of Power of Attorney.
If you still feel you need more information or access to resources on how to prepare any of the documents mentioned above, our Aging Life Care Managers are here to help.
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