As unlikely as it may seem today, there may come a time when your parents or elder relatives cannot make financial or medical decisions for themselves. This can happen anytime someone is incapacitated and not in a clear state of mind or unable to communicate their wishes. This is why establishing power of attorney and a health care proxy is essential for any estate plan. These legal documents can help you ensure that a person’s wishes are followed no matter what. However, it is vital to understand the differences between these two and what they mean.
The Differences Between Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy grants a person the authority to make medical decisions, and a power of attorney grants the ability to make financial decisions. Both documents appoint people to make these decisions when a person becomes incapacitated. However, the definition of incapacity varies by state, so consult with your elder law attorney at The Millman Law Group about the specifics.
The person on whose behalf the decisions are made is called the principal of the document, while the decision-maker is the agent. A health care proxy and powers of attorney both go into effect immediately.
What Is a Health Care Proxy?
A health care proxy agent is appointed to speak for another regarding medical decisions. The agent is often known by other names, including:
- Medical proxy
- Health care agent
- Health care representative
- Health care power of attorney
- Medical power of attorney
Sometimes, a health care proxy is “durable.” In that instance, the agent can make a health decision even if the senior didn’t explicitly state their wishes before incapacitation.
What is Power of Attorney?
Power of attorney, also known as financial power of attorney, designates an agent responsible for making decisions about the principal’s finances. This can include signing checks to pay bills when the principal cannot. It can also involve making permanent choices related to real estate or other assets.
How to Appoint Your Agents
Medical and financial choices are often left to a person’s adult children. Otherwise, a trusted family member or friend in good health can step into one or both of these roles. However, you should recognize that if you select two different people, they may have to work together in situations when medical decisions involve utilizing the principal’s finances.
In either position, ensure that there is no conflict of interest. Each agent should also be able to put aside their preferences and prioritize the principal’s wishes, even in the most difficult scenarios.
To avoid conflict between two agents, consider these steps:
- Appoint power of attorney and health care proxy to the same person.
- If duties are shared, select a skilled mediator ahead of time.
- The principal can prevent conflicts by outlining their wishes in advance.
If the principal can write out most of their medical and financial preferences ahead of time, this can help relieve decision-making responsibility from the agents.
Establishing these legal powers can be done effectively with the help of your Millman Law Group lawyer. They shouldn’t be overlooked, as they can be essential when a sudden illness or injury strikes.
Estate Planning Made Easy With Millman Law Group
Millman Law Group, PLLC is rare because it’s one of the only law firms that offer life planning in South Florida. From life care planning to the preparation of detailed estate plans, Millman Law Group has committed to serving Floridian elderly communities in Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, Ocean Ridge, Hillsboro Beach, and many other areas since 2018. Our dedicated team also specializes in special needs trusts and catering to any age demographic because we know for certain it’s never too early to start preparing you and your family for your future. For the latest news in estate planning and elder care law, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Pinterest. You can also contact us at 561-463-6480.