In addition to a Will or Trust, a thorough Estate Plan should include Powers of Attorney, to give a person the authority to make financial or healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances gives authority to another person, called an agent, to make financial decisions and transactions on your behalf. It is called “durable” because the authority survives even if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. However, a Power of Attorney does not survive after your death; you will need a Will or other estate planning document to control how your assets are managed after your death.

Durable Powers of Attorney can, if you choose, grant very broad powers to your agent. In addition to managing your bank accounts and investments, your agent can also be authorized to buy or sell real estate, file lawsuits, give gifts, and many other actions.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions gives you the ability to appoint a family member or friend, 18 years or older, to make health care decisions for you if your doctors determine you can no longer make your own medical decisions.

You can give this person very broad authority to make very important decisions regarding the type of health care you wish to have if you become incapacitated and where there is no hope for recovery.  Your agent will have authority to make informed decisions regarding the right to accept, maintain, end, or refuse any care, treatment, or services to diagnose or treat a physical or mental condition. You can an allow an agent to order the withholding or withdrawal of a feeding tube, or other procedures meant to prolong your life.

A Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions is different from a Living Will (Declaration to Physicians).  In a Declaration to Physicians, you can specify your wishes about life-support machines or feeding tubes if you become terminally ill or lapse into a persistent vegetative state.  A Declaration to Physicians does not, however, name a specific person to make decisions for you.