Legal Documents Can Be Similar In Name But Different In Action Or Scope Or Time
For example, a power of attorney is a powerful legal document. It’s recommended that your comprehensive estate plan include a durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. When the time comes it’s important to know which power of attorney you need.
In general, a power of attorney involves a principal (the person signing the document) and at least one agent (the person who is being given powers). Here’s a rundown of the power of attorney types available:
General Power Of Attorney
This type of power of attorney gives an agent the authority to act on your behalf. However, that power can be broad or limited. The most important thing to remember about a general power of attorney is that the agent’s authority ends if you become incapacitated.
You might want to use a general power of attorney if you will be out of town, for example. Your agent might need to sign documents, handle negotiations, or make decisions while you are gone.
Durable Power Of Attorney
The big difference here between this power of attorney and the general power of attorney is the word “durable.” It’s not just a word that’s been thrown into the title to make it sound more official. It has a real impact on how the power of attorney will be used.
A durable power of attorney contains language one of the following statements:
- “This power of attorney is not affected by subsequent disability or incapacity of the principal or lapse of time.”
- “This power of attorney is effective on the disability or incapacity of the principal.”
A document that contains the first statement above might be referred to as granting “surviving” powers. A power of attorney that contains the second statement above might be called a “springing” power of attorney.
Health Care Power Of Attorney
As it says in the title of the document, this power of attorney grants authority to an agent to act on your behalf in making health care decisions. This may also be called a medical power of attorney.
You’ll include this document in your estate plan so an agent, perhaps your spouse or a close friend, can make medical treatment decisions for you.
One important thing to note here is that the health care power of attorney does not allow the agent to make mental health care decisions. A mental health care power of attorney grants authority for someone to make decisions regarding your mental health care.
Learn More About Powers Of Attorney
Two powers of attorney are usually part of a basic estate plan: Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney. Even these two common documents, though, give their principals options to personalize the power of attorney to their life and situation.