As hard as it is to imagine, there may come a day when we are no longer physically or mentally able to make decisions for ourselves. This inability to make decisions may last for a short period of time, or for the rest of our lives. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for this and legally put someone in charge of decision-making on our behalves, should we ever need it. Many estate plans include a power of attorney, or a written document that legally gives someone else the power to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf, if necessary.
Types of power of attorney
A power of attorney authorizes an agent to make decisions on behalf of the principal. There are multiple types of power of attorney including:
- General power of attorney – The agent will make legal and financial decisions on behalf of the principal until the principal dies, becomes incapacitated, or revokes the agent’s power.
- Durable power of attorney – A durable power of attorney is essentially a general power of attorney that continues once the principal becomes incapacitated and lasts until the principal dies.
- Springing power of attorney – The agent will begin making legal and financial decisions on behalf of the principal only if the principal becomes incapacitated. The springing power of attorney will continue until the principal’s death, unless the principal becomes capable of making their own decisions and revokes the agent’s power.
- Medical power of attorney – The agent will make some or all decisions relating to the medical treatment of the principal and end-of-life decisions for the principal and will expire when the principal dies or no longer needs the specified medical treatment.
The estate planning process often involves one or more power of attorney documents. An attorney specializing in these matters can help you select an agent and ensure that your needs are taken care of.