Understanding Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is one of many powerful legal tools involved in a comprehensive estate plan. Here, the estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of James A. List explain the basics of a power of attorney, including the terms durable and non-durable, as well as providing an overview of medical and financial powers of attorney.  

Durable vs. Non-Durable Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legally binding document that allows another individual, referred to as an agent, proxy, attorney-in-fact and more, to make major decisions for you—these decisions are often medical or financial. A power of attorney can either be durable or non-durable in nature. A durable power of attorney continues to carry legal weight after an individual becomes disabled or mentally incapacitated, while a non-durable power of attorney ends in this instance. Having an estate planning attorney review your unique situation will help you to determine whether a durable or non-durable power of attorney is the right choice for you.

Medical vs. Financial Power of Attorney

The two major types of power of attorney are medical or financial. Many individuals find that creating two separate powers of attorney, declaring two separate individuals to have this legal authority, is valuable, as an individual who is qualified to handle your financial affairs may not be qualified to make medical decisions, and vice versa. This also prevents private medical or financial information from being seen by more individuals than necessary.

A medical power of attorney gives your healthcare proxy the authority to make medical decisions for you that serve your best interest in the event that you will not be able to communicate your needs yourself. These decisions can include a wide range of concerns, including medication, treatment, decision to intubate or resuscitate, surgical decisions, choices about palliative care and more. A living will is often used in tandem with a power of attorney, allowing you to explicitly state your medical needs—this provides your healthcare proxy with explicit instructions in the event of a medical emergency.

A financial power of attorney is created to allow another individual the power to make financial decisions on your behalf. A financial power of attorney is sometimes created for simple, one-time transactions, such as the closing of a piece of real estate. A durable power of attorney, however, designates an agent who can manage a wider range of financial concerns in the event that you become incapacitated. A financial power of attorney can be as broad or as narrow as you need, and can include tasks such as sorting through your mail, filing tax returns, managing your assets and investments, depositing Social Security checks and more. You may also give your agent the ability to hire other professionals to help make appropriate decisions—they can be paid out of the assets the agent is handling.

Consulting an Estate Planning Attorney

Discussing your needs with an estate planning attorney, such as one of the attorneys at The Law Offices of James A. List, can help you to determine whether you require a financial, medical, all-encompassing, durable or non-durable power of attorney. With years of experience handling a wide range of estate planning documents, such as powers of attorney, wills, trusts, advance medical directives and more, their attorneys are sure to provide the honest and knowledgeable consultation you require. For more information about how The Law Offices of James A. List can help, contact us today!

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