The Importance of Durable Powers of Attorney
Having an effective Durable Power of Attorney (POA) in place for both financial and health care decisions makes clear designations of who a client wants to take care of those decisions should they be unable to do so for themselves.
Unlike a general or ordinary Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney document stays in effect even if a client become incapacitated and unable to make their own choices. In contrast, an ordinary power of attorney document would end when a client becomes mentally incapable/in these circumstances. The difference may seem modest, but Durable Power of Attorney documents help alleviate tensions that often arise between family and friends holding differing opinions, adding stress to an already stressful situation.
Financial vs. Health Care Power of Attorney:
Financial POA: Gives a designated person the authority to make legal/financial decisions on behalf of the client.
Health Care POA: Gives a designated person the authority to make health care decisions on behalf of the client when they are not able to do so themselves. This may be a temporary period or while navigating a long-term health situation.
Clients should prepare these legal documents long before having to actually navigate these difficult aspects of life and can always make changes should any situations change along the way. This is important because at the time of the signing, the person establishing a durable power of attorney must be capable of deciding to seek assistance. For example, people in late stages of Alzheimer's disease may not be considered "of sound mind" and therefore unable to appoint a Power of Attorney.
Like a Trust, a Durable Power of Attorney can be written so that the transfer of responsibilities occurs immediately. Conversely, the document can state that the POA duties go into effect when the client becomes incapacitated. Until that point, the individual can choose to continue to make decisions on his/her own.