A power of attorney is a flexible estate planning tool that allows you to choose someone who will handle all or part of your personal affairs, including making health care decisions. The person who signs and executes the power of attorney is known as the “principal.” The person authorized to act on behalf of the principal is the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.”
A durable power of attorney is a special kind of power of attorney that will remain in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated. A durable power of attorney can also be created where it only becomes effective when the principal becomes incapacitated.
What are the benefits of a durable power of attorney?
One benefit of a durable power of attorney is that you can choose your agent now, so that he or she can make decisions for you and act on your behalf in the future. Otherwise, a judge will choose someone for you. The agent you designate in your power of attorney will be able to step right into your shoes when necessary. He or she can make the necessary health care decisions without going through a lengthy court process first. Without a durable power of attorney, a guardian will be needed, and that type of proceeding can be very expensive and time-consuming.
A person benefit for some is the opportunity you will have to discuss your plans and wishes for the future with your family now, while you still can. That way, you can discuss your expectations regarding health care and life-saving measures you want (or don’t want) to be taken, in case you aren’t in a position to express those wishes at the time. A durable power of attorney can eliminate the need for family members to debate over health care decisions. Your desires will be memorialized in in a written, legal document. That is always the best evidence of your intentions.
You can also include a Living Will.
For some, it is a good idea to include a living will along with the durable Power of attorney for health care. A living will is merely a written statement of the type of health care measures you would want to be taken if you become incapacitated and no longer able to consent to treatment on your own. A living will actually bears no relationship to a conventional will, despite the title. In many states, a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care are combined to form a single document, sometimes called an Advance Directive.
Creating a durable power of attorney can give you peace of mind and lessen the burden on your family. Without this powerful tool, your family would have to petition the court in order to be able to act on your behalf.