As you age, one of the things you may want to think about is establishing your power of attorney. A power of attorney (POA) gives one person the right and authority to act on behalf of another person when handling their legal matters. Some types of power of attorney give someone the power to help with the designated person's financial issues or health care decisions, for example.
Everyone should have a power of attorney or consider establishing one before they enter an assisted living community like Autumn View Gardens. The document can come into play if you're unable to make decisions for yourself and need someone else to make them for you. Many people choose to establish their spouse or a close loved one or friend as a POA because those people are most likely to make decisions in their best interests.
The power of attorney document can come in a few forms. You could have one of these five types of POA:
Each of these has its own rules and importance.
Health care power of attorney documents assign a health care agent to make decisions about your medical needs. They're not able to make other decisions on your finances or other aspects of your care.
For example, if your spouse has your health care POA and it's in effect because you have dementia, they could make decisions about end-of-life care or the medications you're given.
When you need help with your finances, a financial power of attorney could be the right choice. A financial power of attorney document gives limited power to your agent to work on your financial matters only. You can be specific about what authority they have.
For example, you may say that your agent has the right to pay your bills or file your taxes for you.
A durable POA gives an agent the power to act on your behalf whenever you're incapacitated. Whether you've been badly injured and can't make decisions or you have an illness like dementia that makes it impossible to make decisions yourself, this POA lets someone make important decisions for you.
Most POA arrangements are durable, but a nondurable power of attorney is possible also. In that case, instead of gaining authority upon incapacitation, the POA loses authority to make decisions for you.
A springing power of attorney only "springs" into action when specific conditions are met. For example, if you go into a coma, the POA may go into effect immediately.
With any general POA, you grant your agent the right to act on your behalf. These POAs can be durable or nondurable. Keep in mind that a general power of attorney still has limitations, such as not allowing your agent to make changes to your will.
Anyone can, and everyone should, have a power of attorney. You may want to have more than one if you have different people you want to help you as you age.
There are different types of POA because there are varied situations in which you may need support. You may want to establish a medical POA to help make decisions about your medical care when you've received a dementia diagnosis, for example, or you might set up a springing health care POA to go into effect if you're found to be terminally ill or you have an incapacitating injury.
It's normally time to set up the POAs you're interested in having well before there's a need for them. As a part of the estate planning process, talk to your attorney about the different kinds of POA and which may be best suited to your unique situation.
By the time you're ready to retire, these documents should already be set up.
If you don't set up a power of attorney and end up in a situation where you need one, you may run into trouble.
As a principal, you need to set up your POA yourself. No one else in your family can do so for you. If you need help and don't have a POA, your family could seek guardianship or conservatorship, but the St. Louis court will have to hear the case and decide if one is warranted.
You don't want that to happen because it will take all the control away from you. It's also more costly to get the court involved in establishing a guardian or conservator, which is something to consider as you work on your estate plan in retirement.