POA: Understanding the Need for Essential Documents

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Power of attorney document
Published:  April 16, 2024

What you need to know about power of attorney

Planning for your future healthcare needs isn’t always easy, but it is important. And making decisions when you’re healthy can help prevent stress, pain, and confusion down the road — not just for you, but also for your family.

There are several legal and medical forms you can use to help capture your wishes — from advance directives and living wills to physician orders for life-sustaining treatment and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders. There are also power of attorney (POA) documents, which give legal permission for someone to act on your behalf, ensuring you have a trusted person to make decisions for you when you’re not able to make them yourself.

What is a power of attorney?

Many people choose to create a POA for peace of mind. So, if you become seriously ill or injured, your POA “agent” has already been determined and can easily step in to help make sure your health or financial wishes are fulfilled.

When you sign a power of attorney document, the agent you choose agrees to act in your best interest, making decisions for you in the way you’d want them to be made. You can choose your own agent, whether it’s a spouse, child, or close friend you trust.

When choosing an agent, you should ensure you’re selecting someone who knows you well and will look out for your best interests.

Types of powers of attorney

The law on powers of attorney varies from state to state but generally, there are two main types of POAs: financial POAs and healthcare POAs. A financial POA lets you appoint someone to make business and financial decisions on your behalf. This can include filing tax returns, paying bills, and depositing social security checks.  

A healthcare POA lets you appoint someone to make health-related decisions for you. The person you choose is often referred to as a healthcare proxy. They make decisions related to your health, including medications and treatments, and can request medical records amongst other powers as written in the POA.  

POAs also can either go into effect the moment you sign them or at a future date, such as when you’re no longer healthy enough to make decisions yourself.  

Creating a power of attorney

Once you’ve created a legally binding POA, be sure to keep it in a secure place, like the bank or in a safe at your house. You also should make copies of the document to share with your agent, attorney, healthcare provider, and any loved ones who may need it.

Find more resources to help you in your home, health, hospice, or palliative care journey.

*Please note this is not intended to serve as legal advice and the laws surrounding a power of attorney vary from state to state. Should you be interested in creating a power of attorney or other legal documents, please consult your legal counsel.

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