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What is a Power of Attorney and how can it help me?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows someone besides you to act on your behalf in case you become incapacitated. The term "attorney" means that a person or some persons have been chosen by you to act on your behalf. This person doesn't have to be a lawyer. There are different types of Powers of Attorney:

A Continuing Power of Attorney for Property, or CPOA, makes sure that your financial affairs are dealt with and lets the person that you named make decisions for you if you become mentally incapacitated.

A Non-Continuing Power of Attorney for Property makes it legal for your Power of Attorney to not act if you become mentally incapacitated. This type of Power of Attorney can be used if you will be gone for an extended amount of time.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care, or POAPC, makes it legal for the person you named to assist with your health care and housing. They can make decisions for you in case you can't.

While there is no law that says you must have appointed someone as Power of Attorney, it is a very good idea because you definitely want someone watching over you in case something happens and you can't make decisions for yourself.

Being judged as mentally incapacitated means that you are unable to make clear and concise decisions on your own. It can change with each situation. You need to be able to trust the person and so you need to choose carefully who you appoint. Your lawyer can help you write your Power of Attorney so that it is absolutely clear who can make decisions on your behalf and even what those decisions will be.

Source: Office of the Attoreny General, "Power of attorney and living wills," accessed Jan. 18, 2016

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