Powers of Attorney
If an individual is living but is incapable of making decisions for themselves due to trauma (injury) or medical issues (i.e. stroke or Alzheimer's) then if such individual (“Principal”) has prepared a Power of Attorney (POA) document then they can appoint one or more individuals (i.e. Agents) to make decisions on their behalf. Typically, we recommend a Financial POA and a separate Health Care POA since oftentimes the choice for Agents are not the same. A valid POA serves as an informal way to deal with incapacity and avoids the need for a Guardianship proceeding which can be both time-consuming and expensive. In some instances a Guardianship proceeding is the preferred alternative because the actions taken by the Guardian are submitted to and approved by the Court. There are risks associated with the POA so the selection of appropriate POA Agents is very important.
The primary criteria for a Financial POA Agent is someone you can trust. If you have any reservation regarding the proposed Agent’s character or integrity then they are not a good choice. In addition, it helps if the proposed Agent has some financial acumen and can communicate with the Principal’s advisers (i.e. attorney, accountant, financial representative, etc.). The POA can be effective immediately upon execution and continue to be effective in the event of the Principal’s subsequent disability or determination of incompetence. Alternatively, the POA can be a “springing” POA which only becomes effective upon the Principal becoming disabled or incompetent.
The criteria for a Health Care POA is selecting someone whom you believe can discuss your medical situation with your health care professionals and exercise good judgment on your behalf. A Health Care POA typically authorizes the Agent to make health care decisions on behalf of the disabled/incompetent Principal across the full spectrum of health care decision-making, including “end of life” issues.