As part of your estate planning, you’ll likely select one or more people to have powers of attorney (POAs) over important aspects of your life – usually, if and only if you become unable to care and/or speak for yourself.
For example, you may give your medical POA to the person you want to make decisions regarding your health care or see that your wishes in your advance directive are carried out. The person to whom you give financial POA will be able to pay your bills and take care of your other financial responsibilities if you are unable to handle these things.
Two terms you may hear when you’re discussing POAs with your estate planning attorney are “springing” and “durable.” It’s important to understand the difference.
Which POA you choose depends on your needs and wishes
A springing POA is called that because it “springs” into place only when a person becomes incapacitated. Many people prefer these because they want to manage their own money unless something happens to them, like being in a serious car crash. Then they want to make sure that their bills don’t go unpaid while they’re in a coma or otherwise incapacitated.
A durable POA goes into effect as soon as the document is drawn up and signed. Typically, someone wouldn’t use a durable POA unless they’re turning over control of their assets, health or other matters to someone immediately – perhaps in anticipation of a serious medical issue or cognitive decline.
Whichever type of POA you choose to give someone, you can make it as broad or specific as you like. For example, maybe you want to give an adult child the authority to pay your bills if you’re incapacitated, but you want to make sure they can’t sell your house or empty your retirement account. You can also designate at what point you’re to be considered incapacitated for a springing POA.
It’s wise to talk over just what you want each of your POAs to accomplish with your estate planning attorney. They can help you determine what type of POA is best and draft the documents to reflect your wishes and prepare for the various scenarios that could play out in your life.