For further questions about Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive, or Living Wills, contact us today.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney a legal grant of authority to act on another person’s behalf. In Minnesota, most power of attorneys consist of a short form, prescribed by statute.
The person who signs the power of attorney is called a principal. The person who acts under the authority of a power of attorney is called an attorney in fact. A durable power of attorney means that the attorney in fact can act on the principal’s behalf in a case where a principal becomes incapacitated and can no longer manager his/her affairs.
A power of attorney is a simple document and very inexpensive to prepare. Nearly all attorneys use the same standard power of attorney form.
One advantage of a power of attorney is that it can avoid a guardianship. If a person becomes incapacitated and does not have a power of attorney, then a relative or interested party must file a petition with the court on the person’s behalf to have a guardian appointed to handle that person’s financial affairs. The guardianship process is time consuming and expensive. Further, a guardianship usually must be supervised by the court over an extended period of time.
Power of attorneys can also be useful for specific situations, such as signing mortgages or other contracts when a principal is out of the area and unable to sign.
One thing to be aware of with a power of attorney is that it takes effect immediately upon signing. This means that the attorney in fact can act on behalf of the principal as soon as the principal signs the power of attorney.
Health Care Directive (Living Will)
As a power of attorney addresses financial matters, a living will, or health care directive, addresses the health care needs of a principal when a principal does not have the capacity to make decisions him/herself. Also, like a power of attorney, a health care directive is usually a standard fill-in-the blank form prescribed by state law. In Minnesota, everyone uses the same form.
The form does two things:
- It appoints an attorney in fact to make health care decisions for the principal in the case that the principal is not competent to make decisions his/herself.
- The form includes a section where the principal can give specific directions about his/her care.
Health care directives may be filed with a person’s primary health care provider or hospital. In any event, health care directives should be readily accessible in case the principal requires medical treatment.