What Is A Power Of Attorney In California?
What Is The Financial Durable Power Of Attorney?
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Controlling Financial Affairs with a Power of Attorney, ‘POA’ .
A financial durable power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone the right to sign your name, whether it is for managing your bank account, real estate, 401(k), investment accounts, or even disability benefits, social security benefits; all of those can be handled via a financial management power of attorney.
Many people do not understand that a power of attorney is only good while you are alive; you say that I cannot do it, so could you do it for me? There are a couple of versions of powers of attorney, which is good right now, so if you name someone to be your agent and notarize the document, they can sign for you. There is another type called a springing power of attorney that you name today to be your agent. Still, they cannot sign anything until you become incapacitated, at which point it “springs into action,” and the agent can then sign for you.
The springing power of attorney sounds like the greatest thing since sliced bread, except for one problem; how do you determine the test for incapacity, and when do you say, “I am incapacitated, so you can now sign for me”? There are a couple of different ways; you can have two doctors make a declaration saying you are incapacitated, or you can have a group of about four people that you can choose and decide that, if two of them sign a declaration, then you are incapacitated, and then the agent can sign for you; in other words, there are many ways to do that. Powers of attorney sound great, but they are difficult because you give someone the right to sign your name, which can be abused.
People do not want to think about people misusing a power of attorney. Still, the reality is that there is more elder abuse surrounding powers of attorney than most other things because, when people are dealing with other people’s money, they get weird. You have to be very careful when deciding whom you want to be your agent on your financial power of attorney because you can cause many problems.
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What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
We no longer have a simple healthcare power of attorney in California, although there used to be one and a separate living will. Since 2001 both have been consolidated into what is called an Advance Health Care Directive, which does what the healthcare power of attorney and living will be used to do, but it adds a few more things, such as choosing at least two alternates in case the first agent is not available to make decisions; end-of-life directives, such as whether you want to be stuck on life support or you want to give your agent discretion to take you off at some point. It also allows you to decide whether or not you wish to restrict pain management in case of a terminal illness. Most people do not want to do that. Still, Christian Scientists do, so that is something you have to discuss with people, whether or not you wish to be an organ donor, and for what purpose, such as for transplant or therapy, or research, or you can be a cadaver at medical school.
When you face incapacity issues, you want to have a financial management power of attorney and the Advance Health Care Directive, and if you do, that will pretty much cover you.