Power of attorney

Guest Column
Leann Herman
Monticello Nursing & Rehab Campus

     Sometimes it is necessary for a person to grant another person the power to act on his or her behalf. Due to health issues or mental status changes, I meet with families who have to make decisions for their elderly loved ones. When I ask if they have Power of Attorney for their loved one enacted, the answer is always, “Yes, I am the Power of Attorney.” Little do they know that the document they hold might not give them power to do anything until it is activated?

     There are so many hoops to jump through and understand in a short time when an emergency takes place. Not to mention all the different teams we have: Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, General Power of Attorney, and Limited Power of Attorney. It’s so important for families to understand the basic rules when it comes to holding the responsibility of Power of Attorney.

     An individual needs to have both a Power of Attorney for Finances as well as a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Today you can find these documents on Google and download them on your computer. Research the differences or contact a lawyer if you are unsure of what yours covers. The typical wording in a POA document states: “This power only exists when I am unable, in the judgement of my attending physician, to make those health care decisions.” It is important to review your POA and know that in this situation the physician must sign a letter confirming the diagnosis/status before the Power of Attorney is legally activated. This is simple to accomplish but most people don’t know they need it.

     Depending on the situation the family might want the Power of Attorney to take effect immediately and to remain in effect even upon disability or incapacity of the loved one. When creating your Power of Attorney, you do have the option of activating the document immediately.

     Life throws us curve balls. It is so important to have documents like your DPOA of POAH in place before they are needed. And make an asserted effort to understand the requirements that must be followed in order for them to be useful in your time of need.

     This article is for general informational purposes. Before you utilize any legal form, you should have it reviewed by a lawyer in your jurisdiction to be sure that it meets your legal needs, and will be held valid by a court in the jurisdiction where you reside.


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