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A Power of Attorney can be a useful tool in which you may name or delegate another person to act for you in making decisions or doing things on your behalf. We can advise you as to what situations will probably require a power of attorney and can prepare the required documents to be certain that you are protected from unnecessary Court intervention.

What exactly is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a document by which one person gives authority to another person to act on their behalf and to do things that you could do while you are alive. The Power of Attorney ends upon your death. The person who grants the power, and authorizes another person is referred to as the principal.   The person who is authorized to act under the terms of the document on behalf of the principal is referred to as the agent or the attorney in fact.

Issues included under a power of attorney may be wide ranging.  Typically, a power of attorney is utilized to deal with issues pertaining to business affairs, finances, health or medical issues.

Forms of Powers of Attorney

Not all powers of attorney are alike. They vary not merely on the subject matter they cover, but additionally on the circumstances in which the power will become exercisable. The following are examples of different types of powers, and just how they might be used:

General Powers vs. Durable Powers

A general power of attorney grants the agent or attorney-in-fact, total control to act on behalf of the principal pertaining to all affairs specifically established in the general power of attorney. 

The general power of attorney can grant either wide-ranging powers or powers that are very restricted, or everything in between.  A general power of attorney ends if the principal becomes incapacitated or dies.

If the principal wants the power of attorney to continue in the event of incapacity of the principal, the power of attorney is called "Durable".   The precise language of the power of attorney document will determine the scope.

Durable Health Care Powers

A durable health care power permits you to identify a specified individual, often referred to as a health care or patient advocate, to make choices regarding your health care in the event you become incapacitated and are not able to make important decisions. The document sets forth your specific desires and furnishes instructions to the agent with regard to your medical treatment, or may give your advocate broad discretion to make medical decisions on your behalf, including end of life decisions.

Durable and General Financial Powers

A financial power of attorney allows you to designate an agent to deal with financial affairs for you. This might include anything from having to pay family bills to purchasing or selling residential property, to collecting Social Security benefits, to having to pay taxes, making gifts, etc...  

In some instances, it may be wise to make the power of attorney effective immediately. In other circumstances, it might make more sense to have the power become effective only in cases where the principal has become incapacitated. 

Medical Records General Powers of Attorney

Medical records are securely protected by health care professionals, and of course federal law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) specifically limits disclosing or sharing any health-related important information. 

So what happens if you become ill and your agent or attorney-in-fact really needs to make medical decisions pertaining to your treatment options, and the agent is unable to get access to your medical records?  

A general power of attorney for medical records specifies your agent or attorney-in-fact has the ability to gain access to your medical records under HIPAA so they might make better and more informed choices pertaining to your treatment. This document is often referred to as a HIPPA Authorization. It can be a separate document or can be contained in your health care power of attorney.

Deciding If a Power of Attorney is Best for You

There are numerous factors to consider when deciding whether a power of attorney seems logical for you. As an experienced estate planning lawyer, I have found that the choice is better formulated in the framework of a detailed estate plan dealing with all related financial, health, and other concerns. 

If you would like to look into how a power of attorney might help you in preparing your estate, then please contact Jim Malinowski to arrange a consultation.