On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP on Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

Protecting your legacy begins with having a strong estate plan in place. This includes assigning a durable power of attorney. This legal process gives a named individual the ability to make important decisions regarding your finances, your health and end-of-life care. This is typically a close personal friend, family member or other trusted person.

If, due to an accident, illness or simply the effects of old age, you have become unable to tell your doctors the type of medical treatment you want, a power of attorney will make this clear. It can also cover circumstances where you have become unable to manage your financial affairs. There are two aspects to the process: medical and financial powers of attorney.

This person will have the ability to provide informed consent to medical staff, following the guidelines established in a living will. As with most other states, Rhode Island law allows the patient’s specified health care agent to refuse any procedure that draws out the dying process. While any intervention that alleviates pain or provides comfort cannot be withdrawn, no one (the physician or anyone else) can help patients end their own life. Another part of this process involves assigning someone to be in charge of your finances.

What is Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is actually a legal document that gives someone you have chosen the permission to make decisions in your place in the event you are mentally incapacitated. A durable power of attorney just means that the document remains in effect if you are incapacitated in some way and are unable to take care of matters on your own. By contrast, nondurable powers of attorney would automatically end if the person who made them lost mental capacity.
In a valid power of attorney, the person you appoint would become legally permitted to take care of vital matters for you if you could no longer, for example, pay your bills, manage your investments or direct your own medical care.

No one wants to think about these things when they’re young, or any time, really. But taking the small amount of time now to create these documents will be well worth the effort later. Let’s say you have not made durable powers of attorney and something unfortunate were to happen to you, your loved ones would have to head to court to obtain the authority to handle your estate.
You will need two separate documents: one that addresses health care issues and another that addresses finances. These documents aren’t too difficult or costly to prepare, but you will need a trusted attorney to draft them up for you.

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical power of attorney, also called a durable power of attorney for health care, appoints a trusted person to direct your medical care if you can’t. This person will work with health care providers to ensure you receive the kind of medical care you specified. Your health care agent is legally bound to follow your treatment preferences. To make them as clear as possible, you can use a second type of health care directive, called a living will, which provides written health care instructions. Often times, a durable power of attorney for health care and health care declaration are combined into one form known as an “advance health care directive.”

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney gives a trusted person permission to handle financial transactions on your behalf. These can be fairly simple and used for one transaction, i.e., closing a real estate deal. But others are far more complex and allow the designated person to manage all of your financial affairs for you if you become incapacitated. This is called a “durable power of attorney for finances.”

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.