A power of attorney (POA) is a document that authorizes someone else to take action on your behalf. For instance, a medical power of attorney allows the agent to make medical decisions for you, such as determining what type of care you receive, while a legal power of attorney gives that person the ability to access bank accounts, sign paperwork and other things of this nature.
You set these up long before you pass away, of course, so that they’re ready when you need them. But when do they actually take effect? When can the agent start using this power to make your decisions and choices?
POAs spring into action when they’re needed
It may sound broad, but these powers of attorney general kick in when someone is unable to act on their own behalf. This can be very different from case to case, depending on the situation.
A common example is when someone is unconscious or in a coma. They cannot make medical decisions, but they still need to get critical care, so their agent with a medical POA can make those decisions for them.
Another example could be if the person has a mental disorder, perhaps associated with aging, that means they can no longer act in their own best interests. They may be awake and able to communicate, but they could be confused or lack the mental capacity to really understand what is happening. Their agent with a financial or medical POA may be able to make better choices than the person would make on their own.
These situations can become contentious, though, when an elderly person claims they’re aware enough to make decisions and the agent believes they’re not. It’s very important for everyone involved to know what rights and options they have to protect their interests and their loved ones.