There are some things that people legally only have the right to do for themselves. For example, unless the person is a minor, only they can make medical decisions.
This power can be transferred using a power of attorney. With this document, an individual chooses an agent and gives them the ability to make similar decisions. This could be done for medical reasons, as noted above, or for financial and legal reasons – accessing bank accounts, paying taxes, etc.
When do you give up your own autonomy?
The issue that people sometimes have with a power of attorney is that they are concerned about giving up their own legal ability to make these decisions. If they draft the power of attorney and choose an agent, does that mean someone else is immediately in charge of their life? Could that person start making financial decisions for them or talking to their doctor about necessary medical care?
It is possible to set a power of attorney up this way, where it kicks in immediately. But it isn’t very common. Usually, people will pick a future event, which will be defined in the documentation.
For instance, you could set up a medical power of attorney saying that one of your adult children has the ability to work with your medical team – but only if you become incapacitated. If you do, you know that someone is working on your behalf. If you do not, though, you don’t give up your own ability to make medical choices.
It’s important to set up an estate plan correctly to accomplish your goals. Be sure you know what steps to take.