Appointing a power of attorney is a crucial part of a water-tight and future-proof estate plan. However, there are two different types: Financial Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney.
Both these terms are given to the appointment of an individual who makes decisions on your behalf.
As the names suggest, one is for finances and one is for health care decisions. However, before appointing them you need to know to what extent the power goes and to understand any crossovers between the two.
Both financial power of attorney and medical power of attorney are created in separate legal documents, referred to as ‘advance directives‘ .
What is a Financial Power of Attorney?
A financial power of attorney is the appointment of someone to manage your finances and legal matters.
The financial Power of Attorney can become active from the moment of signing. They do not require that you become incapacitated before taking effect.
The opposite is only true if the document states that they are ‘springing’, in which case they will only become active upon a future event such as incapacity.
Incapacity is the physical or mental inability to manage your affairs. Such as mental illness, comas, Alzheimer’s disease or illness or injury that may restrict independent thought.
To appoint a Financial Power of Attorney, you must be of sound mind. It is too late to appoint one if you become incapacitated.
What Does a Financial Power of Attorney Cover?
The financial power of attorneys can gain power of all financial affairs. Such as managing bank accounts, bills, debts, businesses, assets, property and investments. As well as legal matters such as lawsuits, claims and insurance.
Common Examples of Financial Power of Attorney:
- Someone takes control of their best friend’s finances after they had a car accident then resulted in a coma.
- Jane’s mother takes the responsibility of signing documents for Jane’s business while Jane is away on a 3-month vacation to Japan.
What is a Medical Power of Attorney?
A medical power of attorney (or ‘healthcare proxy‘) is someone appointed to make medical decisions for you if you are no longer able to.
This person is referred to as the ‘agent’. It can be any competent adult, but is highly advised that it’s someone close to you, who has the compassion, understanding, trust and cool head to handle the emotions involved.
In Florida, your healthcare surrogate cannot witness the appointment of you naming your medical power of attorney agent.
A medical power of attorney comes into effect upon your incapacitation.
What Does a Medical Power of Attorney Cover?
A medical power of attorney only makes health-care-related decisions, as per the specifications written by the individual making the directive.
This may cover things such as personal care management, the hiring of personal care assistants, medical treatment decisions and preferences, and medication and life-support decisions.
Agents can decide upon:
- Doctor or facility preference
- What tests to run
- Surgery decisions
- Drug treatment decision
- Comfort and quality of life
- Brain damage or disease treatment
- Life support decisions.
Common Examples of Medical Power of Attorneys:
- After suffering an organ illness, Dean is unable to provide an opinion on the type of treatment he will receive as he’s under anesthesia. His medical power of attorney provides an opinion, based on the specifications in Dean’s health care directives.
- Christina is on life support. Her family is unsure of whether to turn off the machines or not. The medical power of attorney makes the decision, per the specifications in Christina’s health care directives.
Do I Need to Appoint Power of Attorneys:
It’s highly advised that you appoint both a financial power of attorney and a medical power of attorney. While you are not obliged to, it can help you and your loved ones avoid complications, stress and indecisiveness in the event of an illness or accident.
It may or may not be wise to appoint the same person for both roles. For example, someone suited to making financial decisions may not be suitable for making critical healthcare choices.
You may also get the chance to sign for power advance directives in a single document, but it is again not advised if the people are different. Would you want the person in control of your finances, also be able to see your health decisions? And vice-versa.
However, you should also consider the relationship between the two selected individuals as they will likely need to work and communicate together if you become incapacitated – a time when fighting, tension and confusion is not needed.
What Happens If You Don’t Appoint Power of Attorneys?
If you don’t appoint a power of attorney, then the court will likely appoint someone to make the medical decisions on your behalf. This person is called a conservator and is usually a close family member. However, there is no guarantee this would be the individual you would select yourself.
How Do You Write Advance Directives?
To write advance directives, you must fill out a form that is a legally binding document. In Florida, it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign it.
You are not required to have an attorney present in the process, but it is advised that you do so to ensure your decisions align with your estate plans and are legally binding. Any mistake at this point could lead to the document being invalid.
Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer, Specializing in Power of Attorneys in Florida
If you or a loved one need to appoint a power of attorney in Florida, our power of attorney lawyers can help you ensure it is valid and coordinate with the rest of your estate plan.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning, experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you plan for the future today.