For persons about to undergo intensive medical procedures or those advancing in age, end-of-life decisions about health care, property and finances can be worrisome. However, legal procedures exist that allow a person to ensure that his wishes are carried out when he no longer has the capacity to handle them. Power of attorney forms allow a person to designate another person (called an agent) to handle financial and property issues, while a health care proxy allows a person to designate an agent to make decisions about life-sustaining health procedures.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Determine what types of decisions will need to be made for you and whether a specific or general power of attorney is appropriate. A general power of attorney is unlimited in duration and scope, allowing a person to act as your legal representative in all financial matters until revocation. A specific power of attorney limits the grant of power to a particular transaction or type of conduct (for instance, the power to manage your property or sell your house).
Determine whom you will designate as your power of attorney or proxy. Before drafting a power of attorney or proxy agreement, discuss it thoroughly with your agent. Having a thorough understanding with your agent will make your power of attorney or proxy agreement easier to draft and will help ensure that your end-of-life wishes are met.
Draft the agreement. State statutes regulating power of attorney or proxy agreements do not require special phrases (or "legalese") for an agreement to be valid. If you are assigning a general power of attorney, write that you are appointing a person "as my attorney in fact to act in my capacity." If you are assigning a special power of attorney, specifically state that you are assigning a special power of attorney and list the types of decisions that you are allowing this person to make on your behalf.
For a health care proxy, you will need more specific language, such as instructions regarding end-of-life health care, including when to end life support. For all power of attorney or health care proxy agreements, include the duration of the agreement.
Follow your state's formalities in signing a power of attorney or proxy agreement. Generally, you and your agent must sign the power of attorney or proxy agreement in the presence of two witnesses, who must then also sign the document. Check with your local clerk of court as to the specific formalities of your jurisdiction.
Determine who will need copies of the signed power of attorney or proxy agreement and send them copies. Generally, any health care facility where you will be receiving medical treatment will need a copy of your signed health care proxy, as well as your physician. Your financial services provider and banking institution will likely require a copies of your power of attorney agreement. The person appointed as your agent will also need a copy.
Tips and warnings
- If you are having trouble drafting your power of attorney or proxy form, search the Internet for sample forms.
- Appointing a power of attorney or health care proxy has serious, long-term ramifications. You should consult an attorney for advice.
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