What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney legally authorizes someone to act on your behalf, either financially or medically. This person is your agent and through this legal document has the authority to perform any action you would, such as signing checks, selling real estate, running a business, or making medical decisions. Your attorney works with you to make the document as broad or as narrow as you choose, ensuring your agent acts only within the scope of the document. In a regular power of attorney, this relationship ends when the purpose is fulfilled, or upon your incapacitation or death. A Durable Power of Attorney serves the same function, but it remains in effect even if you become incapacitated due to illness or injury, making it an important estate-planning tool.
Preferably, you will have two Durable POAs: one that covers your medical wishes and another to address your financial assets. In the event you become incapacitated, your agent continues acting on your behalf. This protects you and your family from the court deciding who makes these decisions for you, ensuring your family’s needs continue to be met. The Durable Power of Attorney ends upon your death.
Durable Medical Power of Attorney
A Durable Medical Power of Attorney is an advance care directive that details your wishes for health care in the event you become injured or too ill to speak for yourself. Also called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, this legal document names the person you trust to act as your agent to make health care decisions in your stead.
Your agent works with your physicians and other healthcare providers to ensure your medical wishes are granted. To ensure your wishes are followed, openly discuss them with your agent as well as your family and primary care physician. The document can be as specific as you choose.
Including this document in your planning saves your family from enduring a stressful, expensive Guardianship proceeding, in which the court determines who makes these medical decisions if you become incapacitated.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
A Durable Financial Power of Attorney gives your agent the authority to handle financial transactions on your behalf, even if you become incapacitated. Though some powers of attorney are limited in scope, such as appointing someone to handle a single real estate transaction, a Durable Financial Power of Attorney is a comprehensive legal document naming a person you trust to act as your agent to manage any task you yourself would handle were you not incapacitated.
Tasks you may include in a Durable Financial Power of Attorney include depositing and writing checks, opening mail, completing tax returns, and managing investment and retirement accounts. Your agent may choose to hire professionals to assist in making some of these decisions, using your assets to pay for their assistance.
Why You Need Both
Technically, a single Durable POA can cover both medical and financial matters. However, separate documents are not only recommended by legal professionals, but also preferred by clients. This is due to confidentiality preferences. Your Durable Health Care Power of Attorney likely has details you prefer to not share with your financial agent, just as your Durable Financial Power of Attorney likely has details your health care providers do not need to see. People may choose the same or different agents for each document.
When to Prepare a Durable Power of Attorney
Preparation of your Durable Financial and Medical POAs should take place at the beginning of your estate planning, while your health is still good. If you become incapacitated or deemed incompetent without drafting a Durable Power of Attorney, your family may not make financial or medical decisions without court approval. Your Durable Power of Attorney may be written so that it goes into effect immediately, or you may choose to delay its application until you become incapacitated. Although it remains in effect until your death, you may revise or revoke the document at any time so long as you have mental capacity to do so.
Let Us Help You
Contact Cholewka Law‘s office in Gilbert, Arizona to learn more about Durable POAs and to discuss your legal concerns or schedule a confidential consultation. We are experienced in the complexities of estate planning in Arizona, and we can help you choose the best agent to fulfill your needs.