What is a Power of Attorney, and What are the Benefits?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document by which one person vests in another person (the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) the power to take certain actions on their behalf.

These powers can be narrow or wide ranging.  For instance, a person purchasing a home who may be unavailable at the time of closing may execute a power of attorney granting that person the authority to sign documents relating to such purchase.  That person’s power may be broad or may be limited to signing such documents.

A Medical Powers of Attorney is used to invest a trusted family member or friend with the power to act on behalf of a person if that person becomes disabled and cannot communicate her or his wishes.

If such an event does occur, and a Medical Power of Attorney does not exist it may be necessary to acquire legal authority to take action on the injured person’s behalf by taking court action, such as:

  • A Guardianship – which authorizes the guardian to prescribe personal care, and related matters, and
  • A Conservatorship – which authorizes the Conservator to manage the ward’s financial affairs, such as paying bills incurred on behalf of the ward.

With an existing Power of Attorney, a person can specify who is given the legal authority to carry out such actions.  The same person can be used for each of these powers, or different people can be appointed.  Further, “back-up” people can also be designated if the initial designees are unable or unwilling to perform the required duties.

Why is a Power of Attorney Critical in a Medical Event?

Without a power of attorney, it is likely that a court hearing will be required to appoint a guardian and conservator.  Further, after such an appointment, the court will have oversight over the guardian and conservator, and periodic reporting for expenditures and other matters will likely be required.  Such reporting requirements not only can be costly, but they can result in delays and can be intrusive.  Conversely, through a power of attorney, court oversight and related expenses can be avoided.

I help clients create powers of attorney that take effect in the event of catastrophic events.