The How and Why of Power of Attorney

As you get older, it is important to consider, at some point in the future, you may be unable to make certain decisions on your own. In these cases, having your powers of attorney in place will ensure your wishes are followed even if you are unable to express them. There are several estate planning documents you can use to put your wishes in writing and appoint a trusted person to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so.

Why Sign a Power of Attorney?

There are some diseases and disorders that can significantly impair your cognitive functioning. These include Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and strokes. Injuries to the head can also cause symptoms like memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and impaired decision-making. Cognitive impairment usually comes on unexpectedly, so preparing legal documents ahead of time, while you are still able to make decisions on your own, will help protect your interests in the future.

Powers of Attorney – The Different Types

You can appoint one person to hold all your powers of attorney or appoint a different person to hold each one. The different powers of attorney are as follows:

  • Financial Power of Attorney – This document grants another person the power to make financial decisions on your behalf without having to ask for approval from the court system. You can choose to draft a broad financial power of attorney or grant specific powers like paying your healthcare bills, filing your taxes, or investing your money.
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney – If you become incapacitated and end up in the hospital, there are many decisions about your medical care that will need to be made. In the absence of a healthcare power of attorney, it will fall on your close family members to make these decisions, and they may not understand your exact wishes. With a healthcare power of attorney, you can appoint a specific person to make decisions about what types of medical interventions are appropriate.
  • Advance Directive and Living Will – These documents address end-of-life care and specify what types of life-prolonging treatments you want to receive. Some people would prefer to take all possible measures to stay alive, while others may not want to remain alive on life support. You can grant the person holding your healthcare power of attorney the ability to make these decisions, or you can spell them out separately from your powers of attorney with an advance directive or living will.
  • Durable Powers of Attorney – In some states, powers of attorney become invalid if a person becomes incapacitated, so they will not be effective in the situations listed above. In Pennsylvania, all powers of attorney are considered durable unless otherwise stated.

How to Grant Powers of Attorney

If you want to appoint a person or persons to hold your powers of attorney, the first step is speaking to an elder law attorney. Your attorney can provide more specific information about powers of attorney, advise you on how to grant them, and draw up the necessary documents. If you need an elder law attorney in Chester County, PA, or in the surrounding area, Robert Slutsky has been practicing elder law since 1992. As one of the first elder law attorneys in Pennsylvania, he is highly qualified to advise you about powers of attorney, estate planning, Medicaid asset protection, and more. Get in touch with Slutsky Elder Law today!

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