What Purpose Does a Power of Attorney Serve?

There are many legal documents designed to help protect yourself, your family and your assets if you become ill or for some other reason cannot make your own decisions. One of these documents is called a Power of Attorney or POA.

What is a Power of Attorney?

With a Power of Attorney, you can appoint someone or an organization to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. However, there are different types of POAs that give the person you’ve appointed to handle things for you, called the attorney-in-fact, varying levels of control of your affairs. The four types of POAs are:

  • General Power of Attorney
  • Special Power of Attorney
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney

General Power of Attorney

A general POA gives the attorney-in-fact comprehensive powers to handle your affairs if you are incapable of doing so due to becoming mental or physically incapacitated or if you are out of the country for an extended period. Decisions about your finances, business matters, donating to charities, giving money to your heirs, hiring professional help or settling claims can be done on your behalf by the attorney-in-fact. Most estate plans include a general POA so someone can handle your financial affairs if you are unable to do so for yourself.

Special Power of Attorney

With a special power of attorney, you can specify which affairs the attorney-in-fact should handle for you if you become too ill or are otherwise unable to make decisions. You can appoint them to handle business transactions, your personal finances or manage real estate transactions on your behalf.

Medical Power of Attorney

The medical POA allows you to give the person you give authority to, the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are medically or mentally incapable of doing so yourself. Although it is not the same as a living will, many states, including California, also allow you to include whether you want to be put on or kept on life support. In addition, some states allow the combination of the medical POA and living will to be used as an advanced care directive.

Durable Power of Attorney

If you already have a power of attorney in effect and become mentally incompetent for any reason or if you want a doctor to certify you are mental incompetent before a POA can take effect, then you need to have a durable POA. This document will ensure the durability of any other POA already in effect or protects you if you are not mentally incapacitated after an accident or illness.

The attorney-in-fact should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes. While a will takes effect after you’ve died, a POA makes sure your wishes are carried through while you’re living, but unable to make decisions about the designated affairs yourself. The Law Office of Anne Dowden Saxton can help you through the legal process of setting up your POW. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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