The Importance of Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney protects you in the event that your health declines quickly and you are unable to make health care decisions on your own.

Medical and financial  Durable Powers of Attorney can’t prevent accidents or keep you young, but they can certainly make life easier for you and your family if times get tough.

While it may not be common knowledge, it is Older Americans Month and Elder Law Month, and there is no better time to talk about Elder Law and Durable Power of Attorney.

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Elder Law is a specialized area of law that involves representing, counseling and assisting seniors, people with disabilities and their families with a number of legal issues, from estate planning to long-term care issues. Its emphasis, according to The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, is to promote the highest quality of life for individuals.

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Durable Power of Attorney for health care is perhaps the most difficult and important Elder Law issue that needs to be addressed as we age. A health care Power of Attorney, or health care proxy, is a legal document that defines the person who is authorized to make health care and medical decisions for another person. This is imperative in the case of older people, who often descend rapidly into poor health, rendering them unable to make health care decisions for themselves.

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While there a number of subtleties involved in creating a Durable Power of Attorney, three that stand out are:

  • It must be executed. This means it must be signed while a person is still mentally competent to do so.
  • It must appoint a person, or people, who will be able to make decisions on the other person’s behalf if required.
  • It must define a triggering event, or the action that will put the proxy in effect. This is usually defined as when a person becomes incapacitated.

You can learn more about the details of developing a health care POA here.

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