No. Powers of Attorney (POA) are only in force while the principal is alive. A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to designate another person whom you trust to make decisions or to take action on your behalf in matters of health, finances and otherwise. While there are many types of Powers of Attorney that vary in scope and time, all cease when the principal dies. POA are only in force when the principal is living.
A Last Will and Testament is the legal document used to name an Executor of the estate to represent the principal in death. The Executor handles legal and financial matters on behalf of the decedent according to the provisions of the Will.
So, if Powers of Attorney are only for the living, is a POA the same thing as a Living Will? No, these are separate legal instruments with distinct legal purposes, but you are not alone if you are confused. There are many different types of legal instructions known as Advance Directives, that pertain to a person’s medical care and treatment in the event the person is unable to give informed consent, including keeping someone alive, bringing someone back to life or making important life decisions for them when medically incapacitated.
Advance Directives guide doctors and other caregivers on what you wish to be done or not done in terms of your care in end-of-life situations, specifically whether or not you wish to be kept alive by life supporting measures such as artificial respiration, nutrition, etc. or if you prefer not to have those interventions. Another Advance Directive is a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order which is specific to whether you wish to be given CPR, to be resuscitated, should your heart stop. So, a Living Will is about keeping you alive (artificially), and a DNR order is about being revived and brought back to life.
In addition, there are several types of Powers of Attorney, some of which pertain to decisions about medical care or and other decision-making in the event you are medically incapacitated. For example, if due to illness, injury or something as simple as you’re out of town, you may not be able or available to make important decisions about your/your family lives. Sometimes these situations are planned, such as when you schedule a surgery or travel out of the country, but in many instances events that leave you incapacitated or unavailable are unplanned, such as a traumatic accident or injury, or complicated hospitalization. A key reason for establishing a POA is in anticipation for unplanned events such as these.
It is commonplace for the aging and elderly to establish a POA to safeguard and ensure their interests, as they may be less apt to understand or incapacitated to make decisions. A POA is not just something you do for decisions affecting yourself or your parents. Especially if you have minor children, it’s important to designate someone you trust to make decisions in your absence or “stead”.
The scope and timeframe for the Powers of Attorney can be broad or very specific. Thus, there are a number of different types of POA. For example, the POA may be only for healthcare decisions, or only for financial decisions, or both. Types of decisions/actions include:
- Consenting to or refusing consent for medical procedures, withdrawing medical care and treatment including life support services
- Buying insurance and settling insurance claims
- Managing banking and/or stock transactions
- Handling of personal assets and estates
- Granting a non-parent authority over your children including custody and support decisions.
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