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More Information on Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and Advance Directives

Types of Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal instrument used to grant another person permission to make decisions for an individual who has become incapacitated or who simply wants to designate another person to make decisions for convenience. Married couples often give each other powers of attorney with immediate effect for convenience. Parents often grant their children powers of attorney that do not spring into effect until the parent's incapacity.There are two main types of powers of attorney:

  1. Financial powers of attorney; and
  2. Medical powers of attorney.

A person must be competent and of sound mind to sign a power of attorney document. A power of attorney can be amended or revoked later as long as the individual who is amending it has the capacity to understand the nature of the document he or she is signing.  Powers of attorney can be useful for the management of assets that are outside of your trust.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney allows the person who has been named in the estate planning document to manage another person's financial affairs, including signing checks and other documents on that person's behalf.

These articles are helpful in understanding what a complete estate plan should cover, especially as to why you need thorough a Power of Attorney for financial decisions:

A Power of Attorney Can Solve or Create Problems

Accident or Illness Always Possible

Your Family Needs a Plan If You Become Incapacitated

Being Prepared for a Possible Disability

Protect your Family and Assets by Planning Ahead for Possible Disability

Take Care of POA, Living Wills BEFORE the Need Arises

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney allows a person to make healthcare decisions for a person who lacks the capacity to make decisions regarding medical treatment themselves. A medical power of attorney will allow the person named in the document to decide where a person will receive treatment and what types of treatments will be administered. Here are articles where you can find additional information:

Planning Can Give Someone Access to Your Health Documents

Do Not Leave Health Care Decisions Up to Others

It Might Be Time to Name a Health Care Agent

What You Need to Know About Mental Health and Health Care Directives

Living Will


A living will is a document that states what type of treatment a person wants to receive if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to make his or her own medical decisions or communicate wishes to medical providers.

Without a living will, medical providers may be obligated to provide services even if these treatments are unlikely to prolong life or even if they are unduly invasive given the patient's terminal condition or poor quality of life. On the other hand, with a living will, a person may choose whether or not they want to continue receiving treatment if it is unlikely to improve his or her quality of life or is likely to cause unnecessary suffering.

For example, a person may choose whether or not:

  • he or she will be placed on a respirator if unexpected to recover from incapacitating illness or injuries;
  • he or she wants nutrition and hydration to be administered; or
  • he or she wishes to be resuscitated if his or her breathing or heartbeat stops.

A living will can give many people peace of mind because they can dictate the medical care they wish to receive ahead of time. Without a living will , family members may be faced with very difficult decisions regarding medical care, and it is not uncommon for disagreements among relatives to arise about what an incapacitated person would have wanted if there is no living will or advance directive in place.

These articles are helpful in understanding what a complete estate plan should cover regarding your Living Will/ Advanced Directive and planning for disability:

Don’t Wait for a Health Crisis to Begin Planning

A Good Death Is Rarely Achieved

New Approach Reduces Unwanted Medical Treatments at End of Life

It Is a Good Idea to Have an Advance Directive

What You Need to Know About Mental Health and Health Care Directives

Advance Medical Directives Shouldn’t Be Hidden Away

Advance Directive

A so-called advance directive is usually a statutory form that combines a living will with a very short medical power of attorney.  Some states, such as Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee (and others), have useful statutory forms. Often, however, a combination of an attorney-prepared living and an attorney-prepared medical power of attorney will can be more specific and complete.


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