Choosing a Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Power of Attorney?

Here’s what you need to know

Woman Helping Senior Neighbor With Power of AttorneySome of the most requested documents in estate planning are those that assign a durable power of attorney and create a health care directive. California law provides the ability for you to make your wishes known well before tragedy strikes, leaving you unable to make financial and health care decisions for yourself.  Both a durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney are critical aspects of your estate plan that clarify your wishes in the event you are not able to act on your own behalf.

But what is a durable power of attorney exactly? A durable power of attorney is a trusted adult you select to manage your financial affairs in the event that you become incapacitated. This person’s role revolves entirely around the management of your finances, with no power to make decisions regarding your health care. However, this is still a critically important job, and your selection should be made with careful consideration. Many people look to a spouse to fulfill this role. Assuming that isn’t an option for you, then you may be tempted to turn to a family member or eldest child. Yet, before naming your durable power of attorney, it’s important to ask yourself whether that person has any experience managing money successfully. 

It’s also important to note the designation you use in your planning paperwork. Some people use the title power of attorney, without “durable,” and believe they are adequately protected in the event they are incapacitated. But, in most cases, without the use of a title including “durable,” your chosen agent will be unable to fulfill your wishes if you become incapacitated. The term durable allows your agent’s responsibility to survive your incapacitation without issue.

In contrast, a health care power of attorney is entirely focused on executing your health care wishes in the event you’re unable to make these decisions yourself. However, it’s important to note that unless you designate the same person to fill both roles, your health care power of attorney will not have the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf.

Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney

In sum, it’s critically important to take the time to select both your desired durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney during your estate planning process so that your interests will be properly respected in the event you are unable to make decisions on your own behalf. If you have not yet chosen your durable power of attorney or health care power of attorney, an experienced estate planning lawyer from LA Elder Law can help you designate either whenever you are ready. Many of our clients tell us they experience a sense of relief and peace of mind knowing they can trust the people who will care for them in the event they are not able to care for themselves. Chances are, you will too. You can contact us by calling 310-823-3943 to schedule a free consultation about your unique needs. We look forward to working with you.