Many people typically don’t think that an unexpected event could leave them unable to make decisions for themselves. However, unfortunate events do occur and all too often many people are not prepared for the circumstances that arise from situations that leave the individual incapacitated. It’s best to be prepared because you want to trust the person that could be left with making major life decisions, especially when it’s your life on the line.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a document drafted by the principal, the person granting power or authority to someone else to act on their behalf, and an attorney in fact or agent, the person accepting responsibility to act on the principal’s behalf. Power of attorney covers authority over legal matters in private, business and financial affairs – but only when the principal is incapacitated.
Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy is a legal document appointing an agent to act on your behalf in medical situation, should you become unable to make decisions yourself. You are able to grant as much or as little authority to this person as you would like, and you may be provide instructions for specific situations as well. Health care providers are required to fulfill the instructions set forth, as if you were instructing them personally.
Which One Is Right For Me?
So which one holds more say if you find yourself incapacitated and in a medical situation such as whether you should receive 24hr at-home care (more expensive option) or be placed in a nursing home (less expensive option)? A health care proxy has the authority to decide what happens in medical situations, but the power of attorney is the one that determines what and how you are paying for the health care services. And if the power of attorney refuses to pay for the decision made by the health care proxy, the matter could end up in court.
The best option is to have both power of attorney and a health care proxy set up at relatively the same time to avoid discrepancies or confusion should a serious situation arise. Additionally, keep in mind who you are appointing to these roles. The best route is to have one person managing both roles. However, there are cases where the person managing the health care decisions wouldn’t be the best person to appoint to the financial decisions because it’s possible they are terrible with finances. In that case, you want to speak with the people you are appointing, ensure they get along and understand what it is you are asking of them, and document who has ultimate authority to settle any disputes – after-all this is your life in someone else’s hands.
Accidents Happen, Plan Accordingly
Even if you are young and healthy it’s a good idea to have these decisions already made so that if an accident happens, you’re prepared and know you will be taken care of according to your wishes. People don’t usually plan for a car accident to leave them in a coma, or for a routine surgery to go wrong; most people think it won’t happen to them but then it does. Accidents happen to us when we least expect them to, but this could be a preventative measure that makes all the difference in your life, allowing your wishes to still be heard when you are physically incapable of voicing them.