We all aim to be prepared and care for our loved ones, but unexpected events, like accidents or illness, can leave us unable to manage our affairs. In such situations, a power of attorney (POA) is invaluable.
A POA is a legal document granting someone (your agent) the authority to make decisions on your behalf, ensuring your family, finances, and healthcare are managed even when you can’t decide. A POA can also be used to manage other matters such as real estate and business transactions.
There are numerous types of power of attorney available that serve different functions at different times. This article will guide you through the most common ones below.
Types of Power of Attorney
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable POA ensures your agent’s authority remains valid even if you become incapacitated, such as in a coma.
For estate planning, it’s common for POAs to be durable, as you’re preparing for situations where you may be unable to make decisions.
While most states presume durability unless stated otherwise, it’s wise to explicitly mention your choice in the POA document to prevent any confusion.
Non-Durable Power of Attorney
A non-durable POA terminates your agent’s authority if you become incapacitated. While not suitable for estate planning, they can be valuable in other contexts.
For instance, you might give your stock broker a non-durable POA for day-to-day investment management.
Springing Power of Attorney
Traditional POAs take effect immediately, allowing your agent to use their powers right away, beneficial for business or financial purposes.
A springing POA activates only when a specified condition, typically your incapacity, is met. While it prevents your agent from acting without clear proof of incapacity, many attorneys discourage springing POAs for estate planning due to potential delays and complications in determining incapacity.
To avoid such issues, a non-springing POA can be used, with clear instructions for your agent. If you’re considering a springing POA, consulting an estate attorney is advisable.
General Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney grants broad authority to your agent in accordance with local laws, covering legal, financial, health, and business matters.
It can be durable or non-durable based on your choice. However, there are limitations, such as not being able to enter into a marriage or alter your will on your behalf.
Financial power of attorney
A financial power of attorney (POA) is a limited form of authority allowing your agent to make decisions about your finances and property.
Examples of powers you can grant your agent include bill payment, banking transactions, retirement benefit management, real estate actions, and tax filing.
You have the flexibility to specify which powers your agent receives, and the POA can be durable or non-durable based on your preferences.
Medical power of attorney
A medical power of attorney (POA), or healthcare POA, is a limited authority for your agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This can involve choices about medical treatments, medications, surgeries, end-of-life care, and the healthcare providers involved in your care.
For instance, your healthcare agent can decide on your behalf if you’re unable to communicate your preferences, such as whether to receive a feeding tube.
Limited Power of Attorney
A limited power of attorney grants the agent authority for specific matters or events, such as managing retirement accounts, selling a house or signing a lease. It can have a defined duration, like when the principal is abroad for two years.
The right POA type depends on your preferences and the specific situation you’re planning for. If you want to prepare for sudden incapacity, like after an accident or due to a health issue, consider a durable financial and medical POA.
For complete control by one trusted person, opt for a general POA. For separate financial and medical management, create distinct documents. If you have two agents, they should trust each other because they may need to collaborate in certain situations.