Estate planning is a complex process that entails more than just writing a will. You may not understand all the terms the court uses as you determine which plans you need, causing you to feel overwhelmed.
Understanding definitions is the first step in ensuring your plans match and cover all your needs. Two such terms you need to be able to differentiate are durable power of attorney and medical power of attorney.
What is a durable power of attorney?
A durable power of attorney grants someone else (the agent) legal authority to act in your (the principal) behalf once you can no longer do so. Usually this happens from a decline in physical and/or mental health due to aging, but it can also apply to other situations, such as when someone gets into a major car accident and sustains a severe brain injury.
The agent normally makes decisions regarding finances and/or daily matters, but power of attorney can cover a wide array of areas, including health care. You need to outline clearly what decisions the agent would and would not be able to make. The agent retains power until you become competent or pass on. Upon your death, the executor of your estate takes over handling your affairs.
What is a medical power of attorney?
Medical power of attorney only grants authority in things that concern health care. The agent would determine what treatments you receive and which providers care for you. The person must abide by your wishes, so it is best to make them explicit and choose someone trustworthy to carry them out.
Medical power of attorney is not the same thing as a living will. This latter document is for providers to know what you want them to do when you are experiencing an emergency or dying. Of course, this is important information for your agent to know. However, you do not need an agent for a living will. Because it only covers specific scenarios, though, it is best to still appoint a medical power of attorney.