Everyone could use a power of attorney. But what is a power of attorney? A power of attorney is a legal document giving an individual or organization of your choosing (legally referred to as an â€œagentâ€ or â€œattorney-in-factâ€) the authority to make decisions on your behalf (legally referred to as the â€œprincipleâ€).Â Note that powers of attorney are only valid while you are alive or in the event that you are away or cannot make decisions because you are incapacitated.
However, not all powers of attorney are created equally. There are different types depending on your needs. These are the most frequently used:
– General Power of Attorney: This gives broad powers to the selected agent, meaning they can make financial decisions, medical decisions, business decisions or legal decisions until you become incapacitated.
– Limited Power of Attorney: This gives specific powers to the selected agent, meaning they can only make decisions for only a specific area of your life or they can only make decisions for a limited time period.
– Durable Power of Attorney: This serves the same function as a general power of attorney; however, a durable power of attorney remains in effect until death. So it will remain in effect if you are out of the country for 6 months, if you are in a coma or are terminally ill.
– Springing Power of Attorney: This type of power of attorney gives powers to the designated agent when a very specific event occurs such as an incapacitation. An example would be that while you are out of the country on business for 3 months you give your mother financial powers of attorney until you return. But letâ€™s say that while youâ€™re away you have an accident and fall into a coma. Now your mother no longer has financial power of attorney, but your spouse does and they â€œspringâ€ into action to become your new agent while you’re incapacitated.
– Financial Power of Attorney: This gives powers to the selected agent in only the area of financial related decisions.
– Healthcare Power of Attorney: This gives powers to the selected agent in only the area of healthcare related decisions. You should note that a healthcare power of attorney goes farther than a living will, which only applies if you are terminally ill, permanently unconscious or as defined by state law. If you are temporarily unconscious, but not terminally ill, a living will be of no use. You can choose to combine them into one document or choose to have them separated so you can help guide the selected individual on your wants.
– HIPAA Authorization- According to the Health Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), your personal information cannot be shared with any unauthorized person. This federal law is important to ensure confidentiality about medical issues and/or medical history.
Now how does this affect you. If you have diabetes and you go into shock and are unable to communicate your wishes, your health care agent will have to communicate on your behalf. But under HIPAA, even though your agent has the authority to make decisions regarding your principleâ€™s health, your agent does not have authority to be in receipt of any information regarding your medical standing and cannot access any prior medical history from other physicians which will impact your agent and the current physicianâ€™s decision.
In order to make the right decision, you need to have your health care power of attorney state that the agent can have access to your health care information which is called a HIPAA authorization.
– Healthcare Directives– This specifies what actions should be taken for your health if you no longer are able to make decisions, which is extremely valuable and can help guide your agent. You can state what type of medical treatments you want and which you donâ€™t, what types of medication you would want to avoid, instructions about artificial nutrition and hydration or donations of organs, etc. This should also be included in your health care power of attorney.
We know that this information can be overwhelming and that is why we are here to help.Â Â We can help you choose the right type of power of attorney based upon your needs while ensuring that the process is seamless and simple on your end.
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