It’s difficult to think about, but a day may come when you won’t be able to make decisions for yourself. That’s when you’ll need someone to step in to manage your finances or decide what type of medical treatment you should receive. If (or when) that day comes, you’ll need a durable power of attorney (POA).

What is a Power of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a legal document where you name someone to have the authority to make decisions and take actions on your behalf. This person is called your agent or attorney-in-fact. Note that the person you name does not have to be an attorney.

A durable power of attorney, sometimes called a DPOA for short, provides that this authority extends to your agent even in the event you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.

A durable power of attorney generally remains in effect until you revoke the powers or die, but can also be terminated if a court finds the document invalid or revokes the agent’s authority, or if you get divorced and your spouse was your agent.

A regular power of attorney, on the other hand, ends if you become incapacitated, which may be one good reason for having a durable power of attorney in place, depending on your needs. You may not want to discover that a regular power of attorney has ended—just when those powers could be needed most.

Who needs a POA?
Because life can be unpredictable, it’s recommended that anybody over the age of 18 should have a POA. Once you become an adult, nobody else is legally allowed to make decisions on your behalf or talk to doctors about your medical condition. As you become older, it’s more likely that a health emergency could happen. That’s why POAs are strongly recommended for all older adults. An experienced local attorney can make sure your POA has everything you need and covers all the “fine print” in your state’s laws.

How do I choose the right POA?
A POA should be a person who pays attention to detail; understands their duties and is committed to taking them seriously; has an understanding of finances and perhaps business; and has the ability to collaborate with attorneys, accountants and other parties, if necessary. Choose someone who is trustworthy and fair-minded. Most people select their spouse, a relative or a close friend to be their POA, but you can name anyone you want.

How do you name a POA?
You name a POA by willingly and knowingly granting it to someone in a signed legal document. They must be able to sufficiently comprehend what a POA document represents, understand the effects of signing it and clearly communicate their intentions. It might be best to contact a trust and estates attorney. POA documents are typically prepared as part of the broader estate planning process. Requirements for POAs are similar in most states, but some have special forms. To check your state, visit US Legal Forms.