It is important to consider the eventualities of aging if you want to be comprehensively prepared for the future. Incapacity is one of the challenges that you may face. To prepare for this possibility, you should consider the execution of a legally binding document called a durable power of attorney for health care.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal device that is used to name an agent or attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf. People sometimes execute powers of attorney even when they have no expectation of being incapacitated.
It may be necessary for you to empower someone else to sign legal documents on your behalf for business purposes on an ongoing basis. There are also limited circumstances under which you may want to empower an agent or attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf. This can be accomplished through the execution of a limited power of attorney.
In the elder law field, durable powers of attorney are utilized to prepare for the possibility of incapacity. With a durable power of attorney for health care you are empowering someone of your choosing to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to make them for yourself.
A typical standard power of attorney would not remain in effect if the grantor of the device was to become incapacitated. This is why durable powers of attorney are used to account for the possibility of incapacity. A durable power of attorney will in fact remain in effect upon the incapacitation of the grantor or principal.
There is also a type of power of attorney called a springing durable power of attorney that can be useful for those who are preparing for possible incapacity. You may want to have a durable power of attorney for health care in place, but you may not want to give the agent the ability to act on your behalf unless you become incapacitated.
A springing durable power of attorney goes into effect if the grantor or principal becomes incapacitated.
A durable power of attorney for health care is an advance health care directive. It is not the only advance directive that is recommended. You should also have a living will in place.
A living will is used to state your preferences regarding the utilization of life-sustaining measures, such as artificial respiration and nutrition devices. When you have a living will in place you can be certain that your own choices will hold sway should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your decisions with regard to life-support.
When you have a durable power of attorney for health care in place as well, you have a hand-picked decision-maker at the ready to act on your behalf if circumstances arise that are not specifically addressed in the living will.