A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives another person the authority to act on your behalf. Unless you have authorized someone to carry out your medical or financial affairs in the event you are unable to do so, a relative or friend will have to ask the court to appoint a guardian.
Regardless of your age or health, it’s better to prepare now — and hope you never need a POA — than to force your loved ones to make difficult choices without knowing your wishes. By executing a power of attorney, you can select the person you trust, protect your family’s privacy, and usually keep the courts out of it.
Here are three types of powers of attorney to consider.
- Durable power of attorney (DPOA) for health care (also called a health-care proxy). This health directive enables you to appoint a representative who would make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. You can appoint anyone of legal age (usually 18 or older) and specify how much power your agent will have. A health directive should be HIPAA compliant so your representative can access your private medical information if it becomes necessary.
A living will is not a power of attorney, but it can complement your DPOA for health care and help your representative make difficult decisions. A living will allows you to outline which medical procedures you would want to be used to prolong your life, typically in the event of a terminal illness or injury. It might also include instructions on pain management and other specific wishes. In some states, a living will may be called by a different name, such as a health-care declaration or instructions for health care.
- Durable power of attorney for finances. A DPOA for finances enables you to authorize someone to act on your behalf in financial and legal matters. The person you designate as your agent could pay everyday expenses, watch over your investments, and file taxes, among other tasks. A DPOA may become effective immediately (standby power) or could be triggered when you become physically or mentally incapacitated (springing power).
- Limited power of attorney. When the power-of-attorney document is tailored for a specific purpose, your agent cannot act outside the scope designated in the document. For example, you may own a home in another state that you want to sell. Instead of traveling to that state to complete all the necessary paperwork, you can authorize a local agent to do this for you. When the transactions to sell the home are complete, the agency relationship ends, and the agent no longer holds any power.
This information is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2019 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.