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Other Estate Documents

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney (POA) is a legally binding document that allows you to appoint someone (your agent) to manage your property, business, or financial affairs on your behalf. You can grant your agent broad powers or limit the POA to specific powers. A general power of attorney is best for people who need someone to make a wide range of decisions or manage their day-to-day finances. A limited power of attorney will restrict the actions of your agent to specific activities, such as selling real property on your behalf.

A POA is an important part of your estate plan. Without one, if you become unable to manage your business or personal affairs, it might be necessary for a court to appoint a POA agent on your behalf.

Who Can Be a Power of Attorney?

There are no specific qualifications for someone to be your POA agent other than the person must be over 18 and not otherwise incapacitated. Because your POA agent will be responsible for some important decisions, it is important that you choose someone who has your best interests at heart and is responsible and trustworthy.

What is a Health Care Proxy?

A health care proxy (HCP) is a legal document whereby you designate someone to make decisions about your health care if you are unable to do so. If you become incapacitated, you are not able to make informed health care decisions. If you do not have a HCP, state law determines who makes medical decisions on your behalf. Often people name their spouse, parent or adult children as their health care proxy, however this is not required. You can name anyone you trust to be your health care proxy with the following exceptions: the health care proxy must be 18, not an employee of a health care facility where you are a patient (unless it is a family member), and not your current doctor or other member of your health care team.

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a written legal document that sets forth the medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive. It is an end of life directive that guides your loved ones and medical professionals on the choices you have made, including, do not resuscitate, do not intubate, and pain management.

Health Care Proxy vs Living Will

A living will is different from a health care proxy. In a HCP, you appoint a person to make health and medical care decisions for you if you are not able. In a living will, you give specific instructions for your care in an end-of-life scenario if you are unable to communicate. Should you later be able to communicate on your own, the living will has no authority. Living wills typically include your wishes for pain management, feeding tubes, and do not resuscitate or intubate orders. Although a living will can inform health care providers with your wishes for end of life care, it is impossible to give instructions for every scenario. This is why it is important to have a health care proxy even if you have a living will.

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