Who will make decisions regarding your finances and health care if you are unable to make them for yourself? This is not a pleasant subject of consideration for most people. However, planning for incapacity can give you peace of mind and spare your loved ones a great deal of stress and anxiety. Powers of attorney are key components in this planning effort.

A power of attorney is a document by which you grant another person — known as your agent — the right to make certain decisions on your behalf. Powers of attorney can be durable or non-durable. A non-durable power of attorney ends when you become incapacitated but a durable power of attorney remains in effect, which allows your agent to continue managing your affairs. For this reason, durable powers of attorney are appropriate when planning for incapacity.

There are two main types of durable powers of attorney, one covering your financial affairs and one covering your health care.

You can use a durable financial power of attorney to designate an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. The agent will have authority, for example, to manage your investments, handle your taxes, deposit and withdraw money from bank accounts and do most other tasks related to your finances. And, because it is durable, the agent’s authority continues if you fall into a coma, develop Alzheimer’s disease or otherwise cannot make your own financial decisions.

You can also create a durable health care power of attorney. This appoints an agent to make decisions about care and treatment should you become too ill or otherwise unable to make those decisions for yourself. For example, let’s say you are in car accident and fall into a coma. While you are in the coma, you aren’t able to decide whether you should have a surgery. If you don’t have a durable health care power of attorney, a default surrogate gets to make the call. In Arizona, that would be your spouse, your adult children or your parent, in that order. If you have a durable power of attorney, your chosen agent will decide in accordance with the instructions you have given.

Unlike a living will — which tells care providers what kind of life-sustaining treatment you do or do not want in specified situations — a durable health care power of attorney lets your agent exercise his or her judgment to the extent you have so authorized.

At the Law Firm of Joseph M. Udall, PLC we believe most people and their families would benefit from having durable powers of attorney for both finances and health care. Our Mesa firm helps people create these documents and perform many related  incapacity and estate planning tasks. Get a free consultation by calling (480) 500-1866 or contact us online. Se habla español.