Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney permits the holder of the power to act on behalf of another individual, the grantor, and lapses upon the grantor's incompetence. A durable power of attorney survives the incompetence of the grantor and allows the holder of the power to act. This document can be used when a grantor lapses from competence to incompetence for a period.

Even the most prudent and trusting of us may be squeamish about giving someone else power of attorney, much less durable power of attorney. This plays into our refusal to believe that we might not be able to make our own decisions. A will—of course we would have one. Health, home and car insurance—who would think of going without these? However, to give someone else power of attorney sounds too much like giving away our power before there is any need to do so. Let us clear this up, just in case—it is too important, and too often misunderstood, not to talk about it.

In case of a sudden, grievous accident or illness, certainly you want someone with the legal right to make the decisions you would make, until you are back to your normal mental and physical capacity.

You can structure a power of attorney any way you like. Ask your attorney to put in writing stringent, detailed instructions. You can spell out how and when the power of attorney is to kick in. It is very much like going on an extended trip, where you are likely to be out of communication with family, friends or business associates for an indeterminate period. Of course, you would put in writing all of the financial, business, and other decisions that might come up, and leave copies with the important people in your life—certainly with your attorney.

A durable power of attorney is drafted now and becomes effective if you are unable to make your own decisions. Simply put it where other key papers are—including your living will, traditional will and any trust documents you may have. It is a good idea to share this information and the location of the documents with the important people in your life.

For more information please contact Karla Young, Executive Director, Wilson Health Foundation at kyoung@wilsonhealth.org or (937) 498-5572.

This information is not intended as financial or legal advice. For financial or legal advice, please consult your financial advisor or attorney.