If you have an accident or illness that impacts your ability to make financial or health care decisions for yourself, you will need someone to make those decisions for you.
A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the right to make decisions about your property, finances, personal life, and medical care, if in the event of an emergency if you are unable to do so yourself. They are no longer effective if you regain your capacity to make decisions.
It’s essential to have a power of attorney in place, regardless of your age or financial situation. These documents offer protection in the event of incapacitation, including anything from physical accidents to medical emergencies.
Here we outline how to get a power of attorney and provide factors to consider when choosing yours.
An attorney for personal care makes decisions about a variety of personal factors, including your:
- Health care
- Other aspects of your personal life such as meals and clothing
The person you choose will be the voice of your healthcare decisions if you cannot communicate yourself. Usually, a power of attorney for personal care is someone you are close to such as, a spouse, relative, or close friend who has good judgement and is familiar with your wishes.
Many people talk to their attorney for personal care in advance to let them know their wishes if they need medical care and cannot consent to or refuse treatment.
An attorney for property is responsible for making decisions about your financial affairs, including:
- Paying your bills
- Collecting money owed to you
- Maintaining or selling your house
- Managing your investments
If you don’t have an attorney for property, your family cannot automatically step in to make financial decisions for you. Family members might have to go to court to become your court-appointed guardian.
If you have chosen someone to be your attorney for property, they can start making decisions about your financial affairs immediately, unless you specify otherwise.
You don’t have to choose the same person to be your power of attorney for both personal care and property. You should select a person or people you trust to act in your best interests, such as a close family member or friend.
Be sure to talk to the person before appointing them to ensure they are willing to take on the responsibility and understand how you want your financial affairs or personal care handled.
A lawyer is not required to create a power of attorney document. There are kits and forms available for power of attorney, which can be free or low-cost options. However, these forms may not account for your unique life circumstances or allow for much personalization.
If you have complex wishes or want legal advice, you may want to consider visiting a lawyer. A lawyer can walk you through any complexities to build a document that best meets your personal needs.