Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property
A Power of Attorney (POA) allows someone to nominate an agent to act in his or her behalf. There are basically two types of POA, one dealing with health care and one dealing with property. Both of these allow you to give direction and guidance to your loved ones while you are still mentally and physically able to do so. It is very important that you choose someone whom you trust to be your agent. Typically you will assign a person as your agent and then name someone else as a backup in case the first choice is unable or unwilling to act. You may choose one person to be your agent for both health care and property, or you may choose a different person for each. For example, one person may be better with finances, while that same person may be too emotional to carry out your end of life wishes.
Heath Care Power of Attorney
This is an agent who will make health care decisions for you. I typically prepare what I call a Living Will Plus, because it addresses end of life decisions (living will), and it also gives guidance and authority for the agent to make decisions regarding such things as health care, residential placement, surgeries, and long-term care. This document also allows you to make known your wishes concerning organ donation, funeral arrangements (burial and/or cremation), etc. A copy is provided to your doctor for your medical file. This document may also be used to appoint an agent to be the guardian of your person if necessary.
Property Power of Attorney
This is an agent whom you will nominate to stand in your shoes and manage your affairs when you are unable to do so. You choose what powers and restrictions to place on your agent. For example, you may give the agent power to deal with insurance and annuities, but give them no power to change beneficiaries or ownership. The agent is not personally responsible for your bills. He or she is accountable and therefore must keep accurate records and may not commingle your money with theirs. His or her decisions must be in your best interests, not theirs. This document may also be used to nominate an agent to be the guardian of your estate if necessary.