Knowing that you will be taken care of in the event that you aren’t able to make daily decisions for yourself can help bring peace of mind as you grow older. While it is difficult to imagine being in that position, it is important to prepare by having a “power of attorney” document in place – just in case.

Power of attorney (POA) is a fundamental document to help guide the smooth running of your daily affairs in case you are unable to do so. It is especially important for aging and elderly individuals to assign an “agent” to act on their behalf via a POA. It’s an important part of any good financial plan.

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives your appointed person the power to perform certain functions on your behalf. Giving your authority to someone gives that individual the power to make legally binding decisions on your behalf, so this person must be chosen carefully.

There are five types of POA’s. 

  • General Power of Attorney authorizes your agent to act on your behalf in a variety of different situations.
  • Special Power of Attorney authorizes your agent to act on your behalf in specific situations only.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney allows your selected person to make health care decisions for you.
  • Durable Power of Attorney enables the general, special and health care powers of attorney to be made “durable” (meaning a legal document which lasts a long period of time) – just by adding certain wording.
  • Revocation of Power of Attorney allows you to cancel a power of attorney document at any time.

Health Care Power of Attorney will allow the person to whom you give permission the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unconscious, mentally incompetent, or just unable to make such decisions. A Health Care Power of Attorney is different from a Living Will because it allows you to pick someone to make health care decisions for you. A Living Will only enables you to voice your wishes concerning life-sustaining procedures.

Durable Power of Attorney is really just a general, special or health care power of attorney that has special durability requirements. If you become mentally incapable while you have a power of attorney document that’s already in effect, a durability provision will allow the document to stay in effect.

There is always the possibility that the person you pick to be your agent or power of attorney will not be able or want to do it, so it is good to have a backup person, or successor agent, in mind.

A power of attorney must be signed by the person granting the permission. At the time of the signing, you must be mentally able in order to make the document legally binding. If there is any question about your mental capability, a doctor may be asked to certify in writing that you understand the document and the consequences of signing the document. The signature on a power of attorney should also be notarized. Notarization makes it harder for someone to challenge the validity of the signatures. It also allows the document to be “recorded” for use with real estate transactions.

Power of attorney documents clearly define who is in charge should something happen to you and/or your ability to make sound decisions. It acts as a roadmap with your best interests in mind, and will help avoid pitfalls.

Power of attorney documents can be completed and notarized by an attorney or a certified Paralegal. However, you can also obtain documents which you can complete yourself via the internet at legal websites.

A power of attorney is important for you, your family and your friends. It helps ensure that you and your daily affairs are taken care of regardless of life circumstances, and provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

Jeanette Jacobson is a Paralegal working with ElderCaring in La Quinta. ElderCaring can be reached at 760.333.0427. More information on Power of Attorney can be found at the State of California Franchise Tax website at https://www.ftb.ca.gov/law/poa/index.shtml#G1.

Sources: 1) http://www.healthcare-information-guide.com/power-of-attorney.html; 2) https://www.ftb.ca.gov/law/poa/index.shtml#G1; 3) http://www.legalhelpmate.com/power-of-attorney-info-list1.aspx; 4) http://www.rtl.org/action_center/pdfs/DPOA.pdf

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