Do You Need a Power of Attorney?

Posted in Estate Planning at 12:40 pm by Michael Dalrymple

Do you need a power of attorney?

The power of attorney comes in two major varieties, healthcare and durable.  Both types are adaptable to almost any situation, but demand serious consideration.  By signing a power of attorney, you are transferring significant powers to another individual.  So, be certain you trust the person you ask to perform this important duty and be fully aware of the powers you are transferring.  Still, I suggest that almost every adult should have a healthcare power of attorney, or a Appointment of Healthcare Representative document.  As for a durable power of attorney, each individual should consider whether one is appropriate for their circumstances.  

A.  Healthcare Power of Attorney (Appointment of Healthcare representative)

Often referred to as a medical power of attorney, an Appointment of Healthcare Representative answers the question, who should make your medical decisions when you are unable to do so yourself.  A properly drafted Appointment of Healthcare Representative should include at least three items: 

(1)  specify who can and who cannot make medical decisions on your behalf when you are incapacitated. 

(2)  It should also specify the procedures you do or do not want to be performed when you are incapacitated. 

(3)  Finally, an Appointment of Healthcare Representative should include Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) powers.   This language will permit the person of your choice to access any medical information that you would have access to when making important medical decisions.

B.  Durable power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney identifies an agent who is empowered to make financial decisions on your behalf.   The document is very flexible and can be used to complete a single transaction or to give unlimited power over your financial affairs.  For example, through a durable power of attorney, you may authorize another to sign your name to complete the purchase of a house.  You may also empower someone to handle all of your financial transactions while you are on your six-month trip to Europe. 

A durable power of attorney can become effective immediately or become effective only upon your incapacity.  Delaying the effectiveness of the power of attorney until the time of your incapacity prevents your agent from acting on your behalf until you are unable to do so yourself.  This arrangement is similar to the Appointment of Healthcare representative, but only applies to your financial transactions.  

For more information about this or other legal topics, please e-mail Michael Dalrymple.


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