Prepare for the Unexpected

Dallas, Texas Powers of Attorney Lawyers

Life can throw unexpected problems your way. Whether it’s a car wreck or even a prolonged illness that keeps you in the hospital, most clients need Powers of Attorney in place to ensure they have someone who can make decisions for them if they can’t.

Powers of Attorney provide the ability for a person to name someone else they trust to make decisions for them when they are either incapacitated or unavailable. Generally, there are two different types of powers of attorney: one for medical decisions and the other for financial decisions.

What is a Power of Attorney?  

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document in which the principal (you) designates another person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf to make decisions in specified matters or in all matters.  Typically, special circumstances will trigger the need for a power of attorney. For example, if the principal is unexpectedly injured or has a prolonged illness that prevents them from making decisions.

Who Needs a Power of Attorney? 

Simply put, everyone could benefit from the protection of a Power of Attorney. Because you don’t know when a traumatic injury will hospitalize you or some other circumstance will fall upon you, it’s important that you prepare before the need arises.

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Do you need a Lawyer to Help Write Your Power of Attorney?  

Working with an experienced lawyer to help write your power of attorney can give you peace of mind in knowing your documents are legally sound and prepared correctly.  The process of creating a legal document can be a daunting task, particularly when the stakes are so high. An experienced estate planning lawyer can expedite and simplify the process for you. 

Types of Powers of Attorney 

There are several types of Powers of Attorney, and various degrees of responsibility you can delegate with each. It’s important that you state what authority you are giving your agent. You could grant them the authority to only do one thing like sign a deed of sale for your house while you’re traveling, or you could grant a much broader range of powers.   

  • Durable Power of Attorney 
    • A durable POA starts when it is signed and stays in effect for a lifetime unless you cancel it.  The words in a durable POA should specify that your agent’s power will stay in effect even if you become incapacitated. Durable POAs are popular because they allow your agent to easily and inexpensively manage your affairs if you’re suffering from a prolonged illness.
  • Medical Power of Attorney 
    • A medical POA is often similar to a durable POA, but will only take effect if specific conditions take place. As long as the principal (you) is conscious and of sound mind and body, the medical POA will not be triggered and you will still make your own medical decisions. However, if you cannot make medical decisions for yourself, a Medical Power of Attorney grants someone you trust the right to make important medical decisions quickly if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, a power of attorney can be revoked at any time by the person who made it (assuming they have the legal capacity to do so). Revocations should be done in writing, and the revocation of the rights to make decisions should be adequately communicated to the person who previously held the power. Additionally, if the person who has made the power of attorney is no longer capable of revoking the powers, but there is evidence of malfeasance, a court of competent jurisdiction may suspend the powers as well.

Yes. Even if you nominate someone else to make decisions for you (whether the power becomes effective immediately or upon disability), you still retain the power to overrule any decisions you wish. A power of attorney is not a guardianship and therefore you retain the right to make decisions which conflict with the agent you nominate assuming you have the legal capacity to do so.

If you have merely executed a power of attorney for financial or property decisions, the answer is no. You must execute a different form to grant someone the power to make health care decisions for you.

Generally, and unless stated otherwise in your Power of Attorney, your attending physician must certify in writing that you lack the ability to make decisions for yourself.

Medical Powers of Attorney allow you to name someone else to make important health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. In granting a Medical Power of Attorney, essentially you are naming someone else to make any medical decision you could make for yourself (if that’s what you want). Generally, such authority will allow your agent to make most decisions that you are able to now including consent for surgical treatment, blood transfusions, etc. By law, however, it does not permit an Agent to commit you for in-patient mental health treatment or consent to certain sensitive medical treatments such as convulsive care, abortion, or psychosurgery.

The powers granted under the Power of Attorney can be whatever you want them to be. While most clients are comfortable granting their trusted agent a high degree of authority, some clients simply want the power to cover bare minimum tasks like paying bills and dealing with creditors. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. If you don’t grant the authority in your power of attorney, the agent won’t have it.

Right now, you may not. You may have the ability to make all your financial and health care decisions necessary in your life. However, if you suddenly become incapacitated or injured, a power of attorney allows a person you trust to make sensitive (and sometimes time-critical) decisions for you without having to take complicated or costly legal action.

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