Three Documents that Provide Peace of Mind During a Crisis

Three primary documents that help ensure an individual’s access to their desired healthcare outcome are Power of Attorney (POA) and Advanced Directive. These written documents allow an individual to appoint external help to make legal, financial, and healthcare decisions on one’s behalf.

A Healthcare Proxy (HCP) This is a legal document in which you designate an agent to make your medical decisions if you are unable to make them yourself.  It is only effective when a doctor indicates in that you are incapable of making medical decisions. Every HCP should have a primary agent and an alternate agent.

A Power of Attorney (POA) This is a legal document in which you designate who you want to make legal and financial decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself. Our DPOA is extremely comprehensive. It allows the agent to handle virtually all legal and financial matter that may arise. It is very important that you only pick people whom you trust to be your agent. It is also important that the DPOA have a primary agent and an alternate agent who acts only if the primary agent is unable.

An Advance Directive, also known as a Living Will, is separate from the conventional Will that determines the inheritance of assets and properties.

An Advance Directive is a document that focuses on healthcare preferences, medical treatment, and health-related concerns in the event of an individual’s inability to make decisions for themselves. Some scenarios typically covered an Advance Directive include comfort and pain medicine, breathing and feeding machines, and organ and tissue donation.

How a Power of Attorney is Different from a Guardian

Both guardians and the power of attorney assist and act in the stead of a beneficiary should they become incapacitated. The primary difference is that when an adult becomes incapable of making decisions, the court appoints a guardian or a conservator to the individual.

On the other hand, an individual may themself appoint a power of attorney to act on their behalf for financial purposes. One may limit a power of attorney to a particular transaction or grant complete control over legal, financial, and healthcare decisions.

State laws typically only impose guardianship or conservatorship when less restrictive alternatives—such as power of attorney—have already been proven ineffective.

To ensure the individuals get the proper document, estate planning attorneys help determine which one(s) achieve your goals and help you to plan the intention of the documents, ensuring that the documents are better customized to your specific needs.

©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street,   Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375.  This article is for illustration purposes only.  This handout does not constitute legal advice.  There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article.  DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout.  Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney.  Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.