As diverse as people are, most of us share one common anxiety: death. The Greeks even had a name for it: thanatophobia. A healthy fear of death and danger prevents us from taking unnecessary risks that put us in harm’s way. Curiously, the same fear can prevent us from taking measures to protect ourselves from future harm and abuse.
For example, we may avoid considering a future in which we are incapable of making decisions for ourselves. In doing so, we neglect to prepare for an unanticipated future health crisis. This leaves us at the mercy of other people’s decision-making and puts undue burden on loved ones to guess what our wishes might be. In a worst-case scenario, it renders our future selves vulnerable to exploitation.
Power of attorney is a pro-active measure to protect your future self from risks and hazards that you’d prefer not to think about now – and definitely don’t want to experience later.
What is Power of Attorney?
Power of Attorney (POA) is a document that gives a person or organization permission to act on your behalf. Three types of powers of attorney exist:
General POA provides an agent with the authority to act on your behalf on a broad range of matters, from managing assets to operating a business.
Limited, or Special, POA gives an agent authority to act on your behalf in a limited capacity, specified by the document.
Medical POA, which may also be called a Healthcare POA, Designation of Patient Advocate, or Healthcare Proxy, grants a trusted agent the authority to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf in the event that you are incapacitated.
In addition, POA can be durable or non-durable:
Durable POA continues to be effective if you are mentally or physically incapacitated.
Non-durable POA is rendered invalid if you become incapacitated.
The benefits of a durable Power of Attorney
Executing a Durable Power of Attorney is a straightforward, inexpensive process that ensures your wishes are carried out in the event you are incapacitated. Without one, you risk leaving your assets, business, and medical care decisions to people who may not know your preferences or may have their own ideas. If you are incapacitated with appointing a POA, the court will appoint one for you, and again, that takes decisions about your future out of your hands. Additionally, a court-appointed guardian is subject to supervision by the courts, which means actions taken on your behalf become public record. Actions and transactions undertaken by an agent you appoint in a durable POA remain private.
When is it too late to appoint a Power of Attorney?
If there is any question about your mental fitness when it comes time to make important decisions about your business, property, or health, you risk having to undergo a mental capacity evaluation proceeding to prove your ability to make decisions on your own behalf. At this point, it may already be too late to appoint a POA.
Executing a durable POA before you need one is the best way to secure your decisions about your future. Once it’s done, you don’t have to think about it again. To be sure your preferences are honored, hire an attorney to prepare your POA for you. If you prefer to draw up your own, ask an attorney to review it for you. Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman to discuss your POA options.