Things You Can and Can’t Do with Power of Attorney

When you are injured or incapacitated, you may not have the ability to make decisions for yourself. A doctor may not know your wishes such as being taken off life support unless you have a power of attorney or POA. A POA is a legal document used to appoint a person to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types of POAs: financial and health. They are different and can’t be used interchangeably. For example, a financial POA points someone to handle your finances such as paying your bills if you aren’t able to do so.

The POA lingo sounds a bit confusing. For example, since it is your POA, you are referred to as the principal. The person you appoint is called an agent. You can name anyone as your agent, but you should have a couple requirements. He or she should be a trusted friend or family member. Also, your agent should know your health care wishes.

Decisions Made With POA

Your agent is legally bound to tell healthcare providers your treatment preferences to the extent that she or he knows about them. You can also provide your agent with a health care declaration or living will. This is a second type of health care directive which specifically outlines the type of care you want in the event that you can’t explain it yourself. Your agent still has the power over your health, but he or she just has more direction in your treatment options. Your agent’s powers aren’t unlimited. Your agent has specific powers. For example, he or she can decide:

  • Content or refuse medical treatment: Your agent has the power to agree to or deny any medical treatment that affects your mental or physical health. There are some exceptions such as terminating a pregnancy, refusing extreme psychiatric treatments or ignoring your health care directive.
  • Obtain court authorization: For any reason your healthcare provider or hospital refuses to abide by your living will or wishes, he or she can go to court to have your wishes honored.
  • Make decisions about what facility you should go to.
  • Fire or hire a healthcare provider.
  • Have access to your medical records.
  • Visit you at any time. This means that your agent can visit you at the hospital or facility after visiting hours.

Powers Not Granted By A Health Care POA

A healthcare POA only allows your agent to handle your healthcare needs. Therefore, your agent is not allowed to:

  • Pay your bills
  • File your taxes
  • Pay for your healthcare
  • Pay for housing needs
  • Make any investment decisions
  • Cash any checks
  • Remove any money from your bank accounts

Also, the healthcare POA ends when you die. Therefore, your agent isn’t responsible for you funeral arrangements unless you’ve given that responsibility to him or her. A POA is in effect as soon as you sign it. You may compensate your person to be your agent. However, that must be done at the time of making your POA.

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