Becoming incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions about your health care is a frightening thought to many of us. You want someone that you trust and can count on to make the decisions for you if you are unable to do so. It’s important to have this information laid out in a document, so there’s no confusion should anything happen to you.
The Pennsylvania estate planning attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli understand the importance of selecting a power of attorney and creating a living will to make sure your wishes are carried out. We know how difficult these decisions can be and will help you select the person that is trustworthy enough to be your power of attorney.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives someone the ability to make legal decisions on someone’s behalf. For example, you are in a coma following a severe car accident. Since you are unable to communicate what you want to happen with your health care, as your named power of attorney, your husband can decide on what should happen to your health care.
In Pennsylvania, there are three main types of POAs:
Durable Power of Attorney: According to Pennsylvania law, all power of attorneys are durable unless stated otherwise. The person, known as the agent, is given the legal authority to make both financial and health care decisions that are in the best interests of the principal. “Durable” means that this directive does end if the person becomes incapacitated.
Simple or Limited Power of Attorney: The opposite of durable, a limited power of attorney only lasts for a short time and usually ends when the transaction is over. It’s a temporary solution and should have clear instructions of what the agent can do on behalf of the principal. In the case of a limited POA, if the principal becomes incapacitated, the document is no longer valid.
Springing Power of Attorney: This type of POA becomes active at a specific date or event, usually when the principal becomes incapacitated. The powers “spring” into effect as soon as the event occurs. However, springing power of attorney can be more troublesome than helpful. For example, it could take your doctor weeks to determine whether you are incapable of making your own medical decisions. Without that official certification from the doctor, your agent cannot act on your behalf.