Ancillary Estate Planning Documents
What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a document which enables another person to serve as your agent to make financial decisions for you. Often the power of attorney will itemize specific powers being devoted to the agent. The agent is usually a close family member or trusted friend and should not be an unrelated care giver. There are three types of powers of attorney: non-durable, durable, and springing. The non-durable power of attorney is effective immediately and is terminated by the revocation, death, or incapacity of the person who executed the power of attorney, or principal. Th e durable power or attorney is effective immediately and remains in effect until the revocation or death of the principal. It is referred to as “durable” because it remains in effect if the principal becomes incapacitated. The springing power of attorney is not immediately effective, rather it becomes effective only in the event the principal becomes incapacitated. Our office prepares the durable power of attorney routinely as an estate planning document, so that the person you nominate will have power to make financial decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. It is a good idea to name one or two principals and at least one alternate, if possible.
What is a combination Medical Power of Attorney/ Physicians Directive?
The medical power of attorney portion of the above stated document is a legal document in which you will name an agent to make health treatment decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. This agent will be authorized to obtain medical records, discuss medical issues with your physicians, and make health treatment decisions on your behalf. Except to the extent you state otherwise, this document gives the person you name as your agent the authority to make any and all health care decisions for you in accordance with your wishes, including your religious and moral beliefs, when you are no longer capable of making them yourself. Because “health care” means any treatment, service, or procedures to maintain, diagnose, or treat your physical or mental condition, your agent has the power to make a broad range of health care decisions for you. Your agent may consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatment and may make decisions about withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment. Your agents may not consent to voluntary inpatient mental health services, convulsive treatment, psycho surgery, or abortion. A physician must comply with your agent’s instructions or allow you to be transferred to another physician. The agent you select to make health treatment decisions should be a close family member or friend who is knowledgeable about, and may share, your system of values as those values relate to health care. It is wise to name alternate agents. The physician’s directive (or “living will”) portion of the above stated document is designed to communicate your wishes related to life sustaining treatments and procedures in the event you are incapacitated and have an injury or illness which is irreversible or terminal. Like the medical power of attorney, the individuals you name as agents may itemize specific health treatments and procedures in the event you want certain treatments or procedures discontinued under any circumstance. For example, some clients may want to receive artificial nutrition and hydration even if they are in a vegetative state.