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Diane McCormick, 81, of Chester Springs has seen friends and family in various positions related to selecting an agent when establishing a Power of Attorney document.
Married for 58 years with two grown children, McCormick feels that being open about the topic can prove beneficial when making legal plans for your future.
“When you get in my age bracket, these things are happening among your peers,” she said. “I think it’s helpful to talk about these things with other people because you might find something out that you might not have thought about.”
This has given her insight into some of the more pressing areas she has seen people grapple with when it comes time to appoint an agent or the pitfalls of not having one in place.
To learn about the basics and more, AARP ElderWatch is offering a virtual class on April 18 as part of its financial series to focus on this powerful legal document. The class will cover what Power of Attorney is, how to establish Power of Attorneys and how to avoid Power of Attorney abuses.
Here are some generally asked questions to help you navigate these important legal aspects of your life.
Who is the best person to choose as your agent and can you choose more than one agent?
According to the American Bar Association: “You may wish to choose a family member to act on your behalf. Many people name their spouses or one or more children. In naming more than one person to act as agent at the same time, be alert to the possibility that all may not be available to act when needed, or they may not agree.
“The designation of co-agents should indicate whether you wish to have the majority act in the absence of full availability and agreement. Regardless of whether you name co-agents, you should always name one or more successor agents to address the possibility that the person you name as agent may be unavailable or unable to act when the time comes.”
If you haven’t appointed an agent, who has the legal right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so?
According to Penn Medicine, under Pennsylvania law (the Health Care Agents and Representatives Act), you, as an adult of sound mind, may authorize a Health Care Agent to make treatment decisions on your behalf if you are ever unable to understand, make or communicate decisions on your own.
The authority that you give a Health Care Agent, and any particular instructions for that person, may be specified through a written Health Care Power of Attorney (which can be part of a general Health Care Advance Directive).
If you do not name a Health Care Agent, or if your designated Health Care Agent is not reasonably available, and if you are unable to understand, make, or communicate a treatment decision that requires your consent, Pennsylvania law stipulates who your health care providers must ask to make decisions on your behalf.
Your spouse and adult children are ranked first in the order of persons who will be asked to act in the role of decision-maker.
What are the different types of Powers of Attorney?
AARP breaks down the different types of Power of Attorney that enable you to limit tasks or give a broader level of authority…
Specific Powers of Attorney limit your agent to handling only certain tasks, like paying bills or selling a house, and generally on a temporary basis.
General Powers of Attorney give your agent broad authority. They can step into your shoes and handle all your legal and financial affairs.
Durable Powers of Attorney may be limited or give your agent broad authority to handle all your legal and financial affairs, but your agent keeps the authority even if you become physically or mentally incapacitated.
This means that your family may not have to ask for a court to intervene if you have a medical crisis or have severe cognitive decline such as late-stage dementia.
Sometimes, medical decision-making is included in a durable power of attorney for health care. This may be addressed in a separate document that is solely for health care, like a health care surrogate designation.
How far ahead should you plan?
According to AARP: “Even if you’re young and healthy today, plan like you’ll need caregiving tomorrow. Tragedy does not discriminate, and the unexpected may happen. While that’s a scary thought to many, this can also be a helpful thought when making your legal documents.
“Here’s why: When you’re selecting your future representatives, you don’t need to think about who it should be in five, 10 or 20 years. So, choose your representatives based on current circumstances, not what you think will happen down the road. Your documents can — and should — be updated as life goes on.”
Free virtual class by AARP
What: AARP ElderWatch Finance Series Virtual Class: Power of Attorney
When: April 18 from 1-1:30 p.m.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advance registration required
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