Creating Durable Powers of Attorney Gives Peace of Mind

From the Chicago Tribune.

If you are incapacitated in a serious accident or as the result of a medical emergency, will your wishes regarding important health care and financial decisions be honored?

They will be if you have created durable powers of attorney.

Powers of attorney are legal documents in which you give instructions to a person, known as the agent, as to how you want the agent to act on your behalf. Powers of attorney are typically designed to give authority on health care and financial matters. Durable powers of attorney enable your agents to make decisions for you if you can’t; Sally Hurme, senior project manager with AARF Education and Outreach in Washington, D.C., says.

“In Florida, the documents are referred to as a general durable power of attorney and a health care surrogate”, says Mary Merrell Bailey, managing partner of Your Caring Law Firm in Maitland, Fla. The general durable power of attorney is broad and encompasses financial and civil rights powers.

“Basically, the person with the general power of attorney can step into your shoes and do anything legally that you could do, Bailey reports. The health care surrogate is also a power of attorney. But that agent’s powers are limited to making informed consent medical care for my clients is if you were driving down 1-4, and you were broadsided by a beer truck driver, and you were airlifted to ORMC (Orlando Regional Medical Center), and you have a traumatic brain injury, the brain surgeon needs to do emergency surgery to keep you alive.”

Who has authority to give informed consent to provide you that medical procedure while you’re unconscious? That’s the person who is the agent  with the health care power of attorney for you, or the health care surrogate.

Now you’ve had the brain surgery, you’re in a coma,but are expected to get better. A lawsuit against the truck driver and his company must be launched. Who has the power to sue on your behalf? “That is the agent under the durable general power of attorney, which is almost all­ encompassing,” Bailey says. “I call it the ‘momma document’: That person can step into your shoes and be you”.

Who needs them?

Married and non-married people should have powers of attorney, Bailey says.”If you’ve not signed the document in advance of being incapacitated, no one has the authority to act on your behalf, including the spouses; he says. If both spouses were simultaneously incapacitated, without a durable power of attorney, two separate court proceedings would be required, one for each spouse, to make decisions for each.

Typically, a married person would name the spouse initial agent and someone else successor agent, she says. As an individual 50 years or older, you should have powers of attorney created, but so should your adult children, Bailey says. “We tell our clients that on their way to get a cake for their son’s or daughter’s 18th birthday, bring that 18-year-old to our office to get a durable power of attorney signed; she adds: ‘It’s the best birthday present the parents can give them. If they’re in a car accident, the parents have no right to handle their affairs without one (sic)”.

[APRA – Set up your own Durable Powers of Attorney here.]

 

June 7, 2013.

Editor: Although the publication date of an article may not be current the information is still valid.

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