If you are injured or experienced a medical emergency, who will make decisions on your behalf? One way to protect yourself is with a power of attorney (POA). A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint an agent to make decisions for you if you become unable to do so yourself. There are several different types of power of attorney, and each has a specific purpose, such as making healthcare or financial decisions.
Powers of attorney are essential in every comprehensive estate plan. If you would like to create a power of attorney document, we can help. At Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace, we have helped many Pittsburgh-area clients obtain the estate planning documents they need. We will carefully review your financial situation and help you decide which types of powers of attorney documents you need to protect your personal and business affairs. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.
What Is a Power of Attorney?
A legal power of attorney is a tool you can use to give someone complete or limited rights to make decisions on your behalf. They can also give someone you appoint the power to perform certain acts in your place, such as selling your home or writing checks.
Many people are familiar with limited powers of attorney that give a group or company voting rights for the stock they own. They can also be used to allow someone else to make healthcare decisions for you or manage your finances. There are four main powers of attorney, including the following:
When you sign a general power of attorney, you are authorizing the agent you have selected to manage a wide range of your affairs, including the following:
- All matters related to your finances, including collecting and paying money that you owe
- Selling and purchasing real estate
- Selling and purchasing personal property
- Managing banking transactions, such as deposits, withdrawals, and writing checks
- Using your ATM, debit, and credit cards
- Entering your safe deposit box
- Insurance matters, including paying your premiums and approving insurance settlements
- Filing taxes
- Investing in mortgages, stocks, bonds, and other securities
- Signing contracts
- Making gifts to or from charities or individuals
- Hiring or firing employees, legal counsel, and agents
A general power of attorney gives the agent broad decision-making powers. If you would like to limit the decision-making authority of your power of attorney, you can sign a limited power of attorney. This will authorize the agent you select to act for you in a specific manner for a particular purpose.
Suppose you are interested in purchasing a house in another state and you can’t attend the closing. In that case, you can create a limited power of attorney authorizing another person to perform the limited function of signing the closing documents. Once the agent signs the document, his or her authority to make decisions for you ends.
When you sign one, you are not automatically giving up your authority to make decisions and manage your own affairs. Instead, one of our estate planning lawyers will help you properly draft your document. Hence, this only becomes effective when you become incapacitated and unable to make appropriate decisions, or when you instruct the agent to act on your behalf.
Changing or Revoking Your Powers of Attorney
We recommend communicating with the agent you select and making sure that they would like to take on the responsibilities of acting as your power of attorney. If it has been a while since you created your power of attorney document, it may be wise to consult with an estate planning lawyer and update yours. A change in your circumstances could change who you would like to act as your agent. For example, if you’ve been divorced or the person you appointed as your power of attorney has passed away, you will need to create a new one.
You have the authority to terminate your power of attorney authority by notifying the agent that you revoke it. It’s wise to retrieve any remaining copies of your power of attorney that could be in your agent’s possession or in possession of your medical doctor. Finally, all powers of attorney terminate when the principal, or the person who created one, dies.
Pittsburgh Healthcare Power of Attorney Lawyers
A healthcare power of attorney allows you to choose an agent to make healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated. We recommend combining a healthcare power of attorney with a living will to protect yourself in end-of-life situations. This gives your agent the ability to make medical decisions for you, including deciding whether to get surgery and what type of medications and treatments you would like.
Healthcare power of attorney also gives your agent the ability to make end-of-life decisions for you, including whether you would like life-sustaining treatments to continue. Be careful when you choose an agent to make decisions for you because you will want to ensure your agent can honor your wishes, regardless of his or her preferences.
Contact a Pittsburgh Estate Planning Lawyer
At Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace, our estate planning lawyers can help you create a thorough estate plan that protects you, your family, and your assets. When we sit down to meet with you, we will carefully listen to your goals and ask questions to understand your unique situation better. We will recommend the types of powers of attorney that will help you protect yourself and ensure that someone you trust can make decisions on your behalf when necessary.
If you have questions about creating a power of attorney and whether you need one, we can help. Please contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced estate planning lawyers.