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What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

April 18, 2023

Many experts agree that the average person makes a whopping 35,000 decisions a day. Maybe it’s as mundane as what to eat for breakfast or which pair of shoes to wear. Perhaps it’s more serious, like whether to accept a job offer or how to invest in the stock market. But what if you couldn’t make some of those 35,000 decisions anymore on your own? Whom do you trust to make them for you?

It’s a difficult topic and hard to talk about, but there are so many important things to consider when it comes to end-of-life legal planning. At some point, we may need help making everyday or life-altering decisions.

Here’s a rundown of a few basics you need to know about appointing someone ahead of time—someone who will not only act on your behalf but in your best interests—should you one day find yourself needing to place any of those 35,000 important decisions into the hands of someone else.

Power of Attorney: What it is and what it does

While you might hear the phrase Power of Attorney (or POA) referred to as a person in everyday conversation, the Power of Attorney is actually the document that specifies who you (the principal) name as the agent to have the legal authority to make certain decisions on your behalf. What kinds of decisions, you ask? That’s up to you. For example, you might grant your agent the power to:

  • Manage your bank account(s)
  • Write checks to pay your bills
  • Sell your house for you
  • Make healthcare decisions on your behalf

You can grant your agent however many powers you consider necessary. Nonetheless, make sure to choose your agent carefully. He or she should be someone you trust and who knows you well.

Where to start?

Prepare while your mind is sharp. Then hire a legal professional in your state to prepare your POA. You want your POA to be current on all state-specific requirements to ensure its validity.

You’ll want to think about when—or under what circumstances—you want your POA to go into effect. You might choose a certain date in the future or the occurrence of a particular event, such as the onset of cognitive impairment. It is important to note that to ensure your agent can make decisions for you if you become cognitively impaired, you’ll need your POA to be durable POA. Simply put, a durable POA does not have to be renewed if your health, legal, or financial status changes. A legal professional can easily walk you through all of this!

It’s never too soon to plan for when you might need help making decisions or carrying out tasks with significant legal implications. By having a POA, you can ensure your decision-maker is someone you trust.

The Hickman is a senior living community located in the heart of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Guided by Quaker principles and traditions that value all life and welcome diversity, The Hickman offers individualized care allowing older adults the opportunity to enjoy a productive life and explore the richness of all of life’s possibilities.

Jennifer Singley, MGS

[9:27 AM] Tim