What is a power of attorney?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Estate Planning

An important addition to any estate plan is a power of attorney. Unlike parts of an estate plan, such as a will or trust, that focus on what happens to an estate after the testator passes away, a power of attorney can focus on a testator’s long-term care while they are alive. 

A power of attorney is a representative that can act on behalf of the testator. In most cases, this happens when a testator becomes incapacitated and can no longer make decisions on their own. For example, if a testator suffered a medical condition that put them in a comatose state.

There are several types of powers of attorney. Here is what you should know:

The use of a medical power of attorney

A medical power of attorney can help ensure a testator is getting the care they deserve. They can help ensure that a testator, should they need it, receives treatment, therapy, medication and surgery to help with their condition. A medical power of attorney can also give consent to discontinue life support if a testator’s health is too far gone and their likelihood of survival is very low. This is often a very difficult role that needs someone who understands a testator’s wishes. 

The use of a financial power of attorney

A power of attorney can also handle a testator’s finances. This can have two advantages. The first is that the testator’s financial matters, such as debts, mortgage payments and other bills are paid for when they can not do so because of an injury or illness. The second is that the testator can use a financial power of attorney to make large investments on their behalf. 

The use of a general power of attorney 

A medical and financial power of attorney can be combined. A general power of attorney can manage all health and financial matters on behalf of the testator. This role is often given to someone who is very close to the testator. 

Deciding who should be a power of attorney can take time and legal guidance.