A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document in which you choose an agent or proxy to make certain decisions for you if you are unable. Typically, a power of attorney is there to protect you if you have a stroke, are in a car accident, or have another disabling injury or illness and are unable to communicate your wishes when it comes to medical care, legal decisions, or financial transactions.
There are different types of POAs involved in elder law, and not every one of them will suit your needs. It’s important to understand which type is best for your situation.
Non-Durable Power of Attorney
A non-durable POA is a protective measure where you pick an agent to act on your behalf until you become incapacitated. If you become incapacitated, a non-durable POA ends. That leaves you unprotected.
Durable Power of Attorney
With a non-durable POA, your agent’s power ends if you become incapacitated, such as your cognitive skills diminish with Alzheimer’s. A durable power of attorney protects that from happening. The person you choose as an agent remains your agent for the rest of your life.
Springing Power of Attorney
Most POAs take effect as soon as they’re signed and witnessed. A springing POA doesn’t take effect until specific criteria are met. It’s called this because once that criterion occurs, the POA “springs into action.” What are the criteria? You might say that you don’t want the springing POA to take effect until a doctor declares you’ve reached the middle stages of Alzheimer’s.
Use a springing POA carefully. A memory care doctor with expertise in Alzheimer’s may see the change from early-stage to mid-stage sooner than a general practitioner.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial POA allows your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. This includes things like paying bills, depositing checks, shopping for better insurance premiums, or making investments.
Medical Power of Attorney
The agent you name for your medical POA is able to consult with doctors on your behalf, approve or stop certain treatments from taking place, and discuss medication changes. A medical POA allows the agent to sign medical forms for you, decide if surgery is a good idea, and whether to stop treatments that aren’t working.
Legal Power of Attorney
A legal POA allows your proxy to do things like sell your home as you move into assisted living or with another relative. The proxy can sign legal forms like a lease agreement on your behalf.
General Power of Attorney
If you want a durable or non-durable POA that covers all three areas at once, you want a general power of attorney. The person you choose as your agent or proxy can make legal, medical, and financial decisions for you.
Which best suits your needs? This can be a complex decision and one that’s best discussed with a local elder law attorney. Laws vary from one state to the next, and your goal is to protect your interests. An attorney specializing in elder law will help you draw up the best POA for your situation.