Everyone faces death, but how many of us take steps to prepare for the consequences? People who plan ahead for their final illness or life-threatening accident often use an emergency power of attorney to ensure their affairs are properly handled. These documents must comply with the laws of each state, so talk to a lawyer if you need legal advice about making or using an emergency power of attorney.
Powers of Attorney
Through a power of attorney, you grant someone else the right to make decisions for you. A power of attorney is a legal document through which you, referred to as the principal, name another person or organization as your attorney in fact, sometimes called an agent or a proxy, to make decisions in emergency situations when you are no longer able to do so. You can only create a power of attorney in writing and must ensure the document meets all the legal requirements of your state.
Emergency powers of attorney take effect in the event of an accident or unexpected emergency. These documents are also known as springing durable powers of attorney. A springing power of attorney is one that is only triggered when certain events take place. The agent has no powers before this. A durable power of attorney is one that allows the agent to act even if you are incapable. If the power of attorney is nondurable, the agent's powers terminate as soon as you become incapacitated.
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You can only grant power of attorney when you are mentally capable of doing so. This means that if you are in an accident or suffer an illness that robs you of your ability to make knowledgeable choices, you are not legally capable of granting power of attorney. In such situations, you must have granted power of attorney prior to becoming incapable. Otherwise, a person who wants to make decisions on your behalf must ask the court to name him guardian.
Unlike a power of attorney, a living will does not give decision making abilities to someone else. It does, however, allow you to express your desires about the kinds of medical treatments you want. A living will can be used in conjunction with a power of attorney, but it is not a substitute. Living wills must also comply with the laws of your state and can only be made in writing.