When tragedy strikes, it’s only natural to think of safety and health first. In the aftermath, it’s common for it to take a while to see how life marches on, bills come due, and the world still turns – whether or not we are able to meet our financial obligations and make any financial decisions for ourselves.
That’s when your trusted, pre-appointed durable power of attorney steps in to save the day.
What is a durable power of attorney?
Also known as an attorney-in-fact, the power of attorney is a trusted person appointed to help with your financial matters. However, without the additional title of “durable,” they will not be able to assist you if you are ever incapacitated. A durable power of attorney is a trusted adult who you can appoint to carry out your financial directives in the event you are unable to do so on your own.
When appointing your durable power of attorney, you can always qualify their responsibility as either limited or general in order to focus on what actions they will be able to make on your behalf while you are incapacitated.
How is that different than a health care proxy?
In contrast, a health care proxy is an adult you’ve named to make medical decisions for you when you are incapacitated. This person only makes decisions related to your care, not your finances.
Similar to the powers of a durable power of attorney, you can qualify the powers of your health care proxy and make specific requests so that they are well informed of your wishes before tragedy strikes.
It’s important to note that a health care proxy and a durable power of attorney can be the same person, but they don’t have to be. Many people appoint their spouse or another trusted family member to make these decisions on their behalf, but you can choose anyone to serve in this role so long as they meet the state requirements for power of attorney agents.
Whether or not you choose the same person, I highly recommend that you make sure someone is named and able to fill both of these roles on your behalf. You don’t want to find yourself incapacitated without these important decisions made and documents in place.
Who can I pick?
In order for a durable power of attorney to be activated in Massachusetts, the following must be true:
- The appointed person must be a legal adult (over 18 years old);
- The appointed person must have the mental capacity to understand the document they signed; and
- The document must be witnessed and signed by two other adults.
If you have not yet named either a durable power of attorney or a health care proxy, Attorney Susana Lannik, of Lannik Law, LLC is an experienced estate planning attorney. Our firm can help you designate either when you’re ready. We’re here to help.