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Understanding the basics of a power of attorney

You have probably heard of something called a power of attorney, especially when it comes to your aging parent. When going over the estate and medical directives, a power of attorney is an important document to include.

What is a power of attorney and why is it so important?

The role of a power of attorney document

As people age, it becomes essential to designate a trusted representative to make individual decisions about their continued care in the event they can no longer make those choices. The power of attorney document, or POA, sets out a set of wishes the representative is to carry out on behalf of the principal. There are typically two POA documents: one for medical decisions and one for financial decisions.

The medical POA

The medical POA performs a crucial function by designating a representative to make decisions regarding medical care when the principal no longer can due to mental or physical incapacitation. Decisions based on life-saving measures, ongoing treatment, tests and where the principal receives continued care all fall on to the shoulders of the designated agent set out in the POA. Some of these decisions come down to financial resources.

The financial POA

A financial POA gives a designated representative control over financial decisions. This representative is responsible for paying medical bills, household expenses, debt payments, etc. Some people choose to have one person designated as the financial agent and another as the medical care agent.

A POA is legally binding and crafted to suit the principal's wishes and needs. The document ranges from general to highly detailed.

The designated representative of a POA has many duties and responsibilities. Caring for a person who trusts you to do the right thing can seem overwhelming; therefore, it is a good idea to speak to your parent about who the designated representative is. Involving yourself with the drafting of the documents gives you peace of mind. Knowing your parent's wishes may help you accept the decisions when the time comes.

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