Does a power of attorney apply immediately?

As part of your estate plan, you may consider using a power of attorney. This document gives you the chance to legally choose an agent who can act on your behalf.

For example, you could use a medical power of attorney, and your agent could then make healthcare decisions for you. If doctors wanted to know about the types of treatment you would approve – or any treatments you would reject – your agent can help them make these decisions.

Another example would be using a financial power of attorney and allowing your agent to do things like accessing bank accounts or paying taxes. Someone has to be able to take on these important tasks, and the power of attorney gives them the legal right to do so.

When do they get this right?

Some people worry that drafting a power of attorney means that they’re giving up their rights to make their own financial or medical decisions. If this has caused you to put off this part of the estate planning process, do not be concerned. The transfer of power is not immediate. You do not have to worry about prematurely giving up any of your own legal rights. 

Instead, a power of attorney usually just kicks in when you are incapacitated. Maybe you will end up suffering from dementia in the future. Perhaps you will experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI). You can’t always predict the reasons for incapacitation, but your power of attorney is there in case it is needed.

When making an estate plan, carefully consider all of the tools you can use to create the ideal plan for yourself and your family members. It can help to have an experienced team on your side.