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The Importance of Having a Healthcare Power of Attorney

Before we get into the importance of having a healthcare power of attorney, let’s define some key terms.

Power of Attorney – A power of attorney (POA) is a document that states a person or organization you name to act on your behalf in regards to handling financial and business transactions.  Unless the POA is durable, it becomes invalid if you become incapacitated.  For example, a non-durable POA may be used to grant someone the power to close on real estate in your name if you’re out of the country.  A durable POA gives someone the power to make financial decisions on your behalf even if you become mentally or physically incompetent.

Healthcare Power of Attorney (also referred to as Medical Power of Attorney) – A healthcare POA is a document that states a person you name who has the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so, for example if you’re unconscious or mentally incapable.

Living Will – A living will is a document that states your medical care wishes should you become incapacitated or seriously ill and you cannot communicate your preferences.

A Last Will and Testament – A last will and testament, simply known as a will, is a document that states what you wish to have happen to your assets after your death.  This document also states who you wish to become guardians to your children (or even pets) if you have them.

These four estate planning documents are all important and it’s a smart move for you to have all four in place.  This blog post will focus on healthcare power of attorney, but we’ll mention the other documents as well.

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