Power of Attorney vs. Medical Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney vs. Medical Power of Attorney: Power of attorney (POA) are legal documents that may be used to help prepare you, your family and your attorney should the worst happen and you become incapacitated. Two primary types of POA are in use today: one is a power of attorney (POA), which allows you to appoint someone to handle your financial matters on your behalf; the other is a medical power of attorney (MPA), which grants someone the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf. Each has its place in estate planning, so it’s important to understand how each one works and when it should be used.

What Is Power of Attorney?

Power of attorney is a legal authorization that gives a designated person, called an agent, power to act on your behalf for financial matters. You can name one or several people as your agents, depending on what types of powers you want them to have. There are two kinds of power-of-attorney documents: durable and springing.

What Is a POA, and Why Do I Need One?

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives one person (the agent) legal authority to make decisions on another person’s behalf (the principal). Most powers of attorney specify areas in which they are valid and specify how much authority they give the agent. For example, you might have a power of attorney that allows you to manage your friend’s investments, or your sister’s real estate holdings, or to sign contracts on your brother-in-law’s behalf. A medical power of attorney differs from a POA because it specifically authorizes someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in case you can’t speak for yourself due to an injury or illness.

How Does Power of Attorney Work?

A power of attorney is a legal document that lets you name someone to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated or can’t make decisions for yourself. Each state has its own rules about what type of power of attorney is allowed and how to go about making one; however, it’s important to choose someone who won’t use their powers against your wishes (or abuse them in any way). The authority granted to your agent under a power of attorney may be as broad or narrow as you want it to be, but keep in mind that everything your agent does on your behalf must be authorized in writing by you.

Who Should I Choose as My Agent?

When considering medical or financial power of attorney, it’s important to recognize that you are relinquishing control over important decisions to another person; in some cases, those decisions could affect your finances or health. Even if your family members want what’s best for you, they might not always agree with each other on exactly what that is—or they may disagree with your doctor and your wishes as expressed in a legal document like a living will or advanced directive. For example, if one family member wants to withhold treatment while another family member wants to do everything possible to keep you alive—despite whatever poor quality of life might be left—then making healthcare decisions can become even more difficult because both individuals are legally authorized by power of attorney documents.

Incapacity May be Defined in Several Ways

There are several ways to define incapacity, but one definition often used is: If you are unable to manage your own property or business affairs or make sensible decisions about those things, you may be considered legally incapacitated. Another way to think about it is that if a court decided that you were mentally incompetent, they would likely grant someone else power of attorney (POA) over your personal and/or financial affairs. If you’re curious whether someone has POA over your person or property, just ask them – you have every right to know!

Always consult with an Attorney Before Signing Anything

If you’re signing the either document (POA or MPA), be sure to contact an attorney before you sign it—not only can they help you understand what you’re signing, but they can also advise on special circumstances and how each document may apply in your specific situation. One size never fits all when it comes to legal contracts, and that’s true for POAs and MPAs. In some states (such as New York), a power of attorney does not affect healthcare decisions unless there is also a healthcare power of attorney; in other states (like Texas), everything is under one umbrella contract.

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