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What is a Power of Attorney?

There are two types of Power of Attorney forms - one for allowing someone to help manage your financial affairs (Durable Power of Attorney) and another designating someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated (Power of Attorney for Health Care) You should have both types of Power of Attorney forms to protect you.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

With a Durable Power of Attorney form, you are able to name a person you trust to handle your financial affairs. The person you name as agent in the Durable Power of Attorney would be able to write checks and otherwise manage your accounts and your assets on your behalf and only in your best interests.

Why is it called a "Durable" Power of Attorney?

The designation as "durable" is reserved for a particular kind of Power of Attorney that allows the agent to act on your behalf after you have been determined to be incompetent.

Why do I need a Durable Power of Attorney?

Without a Durable Power of Attorney form, in the event you become sick or otherwise incapacitated for a long period of time, your family would have to go through the expense and trouble of going to court to have a guardian appointed for you to handle your affairs. Not only is this process expensive, the guardian who is appointed may or may not be someone you would have chosen. Having a Durable Power of Attorney means that you will determine who controls your money and assets when you cannot.

How can my agent use my Durable Power of Attorney?

In order to exercise his or her rights under your Durable Power of Attorney, your agent needs only to provide a copy of the form to, for instance, the financial institution. The institution is required by law to honor your wishes to allow your agent to act.

What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care?

A Power of Attorney for Health Care allows your appointed agent to make decisions related to your health care if you become incapacitated and incapable of making such decisions yourself. Your agent can make end-of-life decisions for you and can decide to place you in facilities that are appropriate for your care.

Is a Power of Attorney for Health Care the same as a living will?

No. A living will is a direction to physicians to withdraw life-sustaining procedures or non-orally ingested nutrition (feeding tubes) and hydration if you are in an incurable condition and your death is imminent. The living will does not authorize family members to make such decisions. If you have both a living will and a power of attorney for health care, the health care power of attorney controls if there is any conflict between the two.

Why do I need a Power of Attorney for Health Care?

Without a Power of Attorney for Health Care, your family may be unable to make health care decisions for you. Medical personnel may be required to maintain life-sustaining measures beyond the point you may want such measures used. A guardian proceeding may also be necessary to move you to facilities such as a nursing home.

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