Power of Attorney/Living Will
What kinds of powers of attorney exist?
A general power of attorney provides broad, sweeping powers for another person (your attorney in fact) to act on your behalf for any legal or financial affairs.
A limited power of attorney restricts your designated representative to certain powers. For example, if you only want your representative to handle a specific real estate transaction, you can effect a limited power of attorney for this purpose without granting your representative powers to handle any other affairs.
A healthcare power of attorney allows your representative to carry out your wishes concerning your medical care. Thus, if you are ever incapacitated, your representative can communicate your wishes to healthcare providers, and your providers would be authorized to share medical information with your representative.
What about a living will?
A living will addresses healthcare decisions and preferences that may present themselves upon your deathbed, like whether to receive life-sustaining treatment or a do not resuscitate (DNR) order. A healthcare power of attorney, on the other hand, can address healthcare decisions more broadly.
Do I need a power of attorney or living will?
Because you never know when you may be incapacitated and unable to speak for or make decisions for yourself, having a power of attorney and living will outlining your desires and preferences in advance would be prudent. As long as you name someone you trust as your representative, you can have assurance that someone will effectively speak for you if you lose the ability to do so. The power of attorney can either be effective as of the date it is signed or can become effective upon you becoming incapacitated, i.e. a springing power of attorney.
You may also desire a power of attorney if you anticipate being absent for an extended period of time and would like someone to handle your legal or financial affairs during your absence.
Perhaps most importantly, the power of attorney can eliminate the need for a guardianship or conservatorship proceeding, where a court would determine whether you can handle your own affairs and might appoint someone accordingly. The power of attorney would at least instate the person you choose without the time, hassle, expense and uncertainty of court proceedings. A power of attorney is more cost-effective and private for your estate than a guardianship proceeding would be.
Does a power of attorney terminate?
A power of attorney becomes void upon your death. Otherwise, your document can specify an earlier end date or leave the power open indefinitely, where the latter is referred to as a durable power of attorney. You may also revoke your power of attorney at any time. The same applies to a living will.
Do I need an attorney to make a power of attorney or living will?
You may be able to complete a power of attorney or living will form yourself, but you can always retain an attorney to draft either document for you if you want to ensure you memorialize your wishes properly and understand the content.