What’s a Power of Attorney? What is a General POA vs. a Healthcare POA?

A power of attorney grants someone (called the “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) authority to act on your behalf. Generally, this document would be prepared in contemplation of a future period of mental incapacity. A power of attorney may give someone authority in the area of financial, legal and business matters.  This is called a “general power of attorney” or a “financial power of attorney.” Of course, the specifics of this type of document can vary substantially.  A power of attorney may give someone authority in the area of medical and healthcare matters.  This is called a “health care power of attorney” or a “medical power of attorney.” The people named in these roles may be the same for each document or you may elect to name different people for each role.

The purpose of power of attorney documents is to (i) reduce ambiguity, (ii) allow for quick and clear opportunities for people to step in and help and (iii) eliminate the necessity of costly legal procedures. Not having power of attorney documents in place in advance may lead to the need for drawn out legal processes and significant ambiguity about who you want in that role and what limitations or specific directions you want to include with even court-appointed authority.  Given that preparing a power of attorney is fairly easy and is not very expensive, I recommend these documents for nearly every client.