A power of attorney is a legal document in which you (the “principal”) appoint someone you trust (known as your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) to make decisions and act on your behalf.
The person you trust doesn’t have to be an attorney, but you should have a lawyer draft your power of attorney documents as there are many different types of powers of attorney and just as many types of provisions to be included or excluded.
Types of Power of Attorney
There are different types of power of attorney.
• Attorney-in-fact under a power of attorney for finances or property would be able to
make decisions regarding assets that you own, such as your home or other real estate
• Attorney for personal care allows your attorney-in-fact to make medical decisions on
your behalf and usually is a standalone legal tool, or may be an element of an advance
directive, along with a living will. These legal documents state your medical wishes if you
are unable to express them yourself.
Why should I consider Advance Directives?
In the state of Missouri, a Living Will or a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can be used to outline your Advance Directives. It's your right to accept or refuse medical care. Advance Directives can protect this right if an injury or illness renders you unable to do so.
Advance Directives can be valuable tools to important people in your life. They can help protect your right to make medical choices about your life. They can help your family by taking away the burden and stress of making difficult decisions. Finally, they can help your physician by providing guidelines for your care.
In a written document, you can name a person (called an agent) to make decisions for you if you become unable to do so. Consider the medical possibilities. What is most important to you?
To prolong life, regardless of pain, chances for recovery and cost?
To avoid life-prolonging measures if the chances for recovery are not good?
Discuss your answers with your family members, friends, attorney, physician and clergy.
Want to learn more about Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care? Check out this great resource from CoxHealth: https://www.coxhealth.com/patients-and-visitors/patient-rights-and-responsibilities/guaranteeing-your-rights/
The only condition you must meet in order to change your power of attorney is legal competence.
“So many times I get a phone call from someone who says ‘I just got certification from my dad’s doctor to state that he is not competent so I can have you do a power of attorney and living trust for him,'” says Stuart Furman, Esq., an elder law attorney in California for over 34 years and author of the award winning books “ElderCare Ready Book“and “ElderCare Ready Pack.”
“For some reason people do not grasp the concept that one needs to be competent to execute legal documents… once Dad [or anyone] lacks legal capacity, then he can no longer sign any legal documents including a power of attorney or living trust, which was intended to be used if Dad became incompetent. The only recourse is then a conservatorship or guardianship proceeding through the court, which is a very costly and time-consuming process,” Furman explains in the “ElderCare Ready Book.”
When should I consider getting a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?
There's no time like the present! We don't come equipped with a crystal ball, telling us what will happen tomorrow, much less when we will need the help of someone else to make health decisions for us. Taking action now, to set up both a financial power of attorney, and durable power of attorney for health care, will remove a huge burden from your family when that time comes.