Understanding medical and financial powers of attorney

If you want to use a power of attorney as part of your estate plan, there are two different types you can consider. The first is medical and the second is financial. Be sure you know how both work. 

A medical power of attorney

Making medical decisions is important, and it is typically just the individual being treated who can make those decisions. But what if your issue — such as a stroke — leaves you unable to communicate with the doctors? A medical power of attorney can be used to pick an agent to talk to the medical staff and make those choices for you. This is different than an advance directive because the agent holding your medical power of attorney makes the decisions as they are needed, so it’s a bit more flexible. 

A financial power of attorney

A financial or “legal” power of attorney gives your agent the ability to make other important decisions for you. When you need someone to access your bank account and pay the mortgage for you while you’re in the hospital, this is the document that gives them that power. If you’re counting on someone to ensure that you get the proper benefits and assistance or want to make sure that your medical bills actually get paid, this is the document that you need in place so your agent can take care of your affairs until you can do so on your own again. 

Getting started

If you’re doing your estate planning, you may want to use a power of attorney as part of that plan. It’s time to learn how you can get started and exactly what steps you must take

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