Do you have someone you can trust to be loyal to you, who you would like to act on your behalf from a financial, legal or health care perspective? Are there things that you need taken care of that you do not have the ability to do, but that person could? There are several different ways you can set up to give that person Power of Attorney to act on your behalf, but it is a serious decision and one that you should be informed about before signing any documents.
In the United States, the Uniform Power of Attorney Act uses the term agent, who is a trusted person to handle the principal’s affairs within either a limited or extensive basis. The principal is the person being represented by the agent. The agent may be an attorney-at-law, licensed by the bar, but that is not required. The agent bestowed with a Power of Attorney privilege has a fiduciary responsibility to act on the principal’s behalf at all times, within the scope of the agreement between the two parties. Often, the agent is your spouse or child. The fiduciary responsibility requires complete loyalty from the agent to the principal and forbid the agent from gaining profit from the principal without his or her consent.
You are unable to grant Power of Attorney if you have the requisite mental capacity. Mental illness or head injury may prevent such an agreement from being valid. It is also possible that a third party may challenge an agent’s decision with a lawsuit, a situation in which a court decides what is in the best interest of the principal.
In some places, an oral agreement suffices, especially if witnessed. However, it is best to put the agreement in writing with dates and appropriate signatures and have the paper drafted by an attorney-at-law, or at least stamped and signed by a notary public.
There are several types of agent you can assign, just be sure to specify in the original document what he is in charge of. Your options are not limited by this list, but here are some of the common possibilities:
Yes, you can create a living will or a last will, or both. The living will defines what will be done with your assets while you are alive if you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to use them, and it specified how your health care should be handled in the latter stages of illness. The last will specifies how your remaining assets will be distributed upon your death. If you grant someone Power of Attorney with the proper privileges, a living will may not be necessary, but every person with assets should make a last will.