Establishing powers of attorney is important for older adults, but the process of setting them up and enforcing them may be confusing. Elder Care Direction has a team of professionals who might be able to help you to cut through all of the red tape so that you might enjoy a smoother process. We can then refer you to one of our screened partners to help you to set up and enforce your powers of attorney documents.
Types of powers of attorney
A power of attorney document allows you to choose a trusted person who will act on your behalf if you ever become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself. The person that you choose to have the power to make these decisions is called an agent or an attorney-in-fact, but the person does not have to be a lawyer.
The two types of powers of attorney are medical powers of attorney and financial powers of attorney. A medical power of attorney allows you to choose a trusted family member or friend to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. A financial power of attorney gives your agent the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. In some cases, people choose the same person to serve as the agent for both medical and financial decisions. In others, people choose different people to serve in these roles.
What an agent can do
The powers that your appointed agent might have will depend on how your documents are written. Your health care agent might be able to make the following decisions:
- What types of medical care you will receive
- The doctors you will see
- Where you will live
- Who will bathe you
- What you will eat
Your financial agent might be able to make the following decisions for you:
- Access your accounts to pay your bills
- File your tax returns
- Make investment decisions for you
- Collect debts that are owed to you
- Manage your property
- Apply for public benefits for you
Things that agents cannot do
While agents might be granted broad authority to make decisions, there are several things that they are not able to do. Some of the things that agents can’t do include the following:
- Change your will
- Break their fiduciary duty to you
- Make decisions on your behalf after you die
- Transfer the POA or change it
The Uniform POA Act
All states have laws that govern how a power of attorney may be written and understood. This can lead to some confusion. To help to lessen the confusion that people might have, 25 states follow the Uniform Power of Attorney Act. This law was created in 2006 to give universal rules for POAs across the states that have adopted it. The law determines which powers are included by default and which must be explicitly listed so that an agent will have them. Some of the provisions of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act include the following:
- Powers of attorney are valid once they are signed;
- Any compensation for decision makers must be explicitly detailed in the POA document;
- Third parties may not be held to be liable for upholding an agent’s decision who has a POA document that looks legitimate; and
- A POA designation as an agent ends when you die.
Since not all of the states have enacted the uniform law, it is important for you to talk to a professional so that you understand what to include in your documents. Elder Care Direction can help to lessen the confusion and to refer you to one of our screened partner attorneys. Contact us today to learn more about how we might be able to help you by filling out our online contact form.