The older a person gets, the more likely it is that they will suffer from a physical or mental condition that makes it impossible for them to make their own decisions. California residents should think about creating a power of attorney to assign someone to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf if they ever become incapacitated.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney allows someone else to step in as decision-maker if you are unable to handle your own affairs. As the creator of the power of attorney, or principal, you will choose another person to serve as your agent. There are three main types of POAs in California:
- General: Intended to give agent power to manage your finances
- Limited: Intended to give agent power to act only in certain circumstances
- Healthcare: Intended to give agent power to make medical decisions on your behalf
When does a POA go into effect?
A durable POA will go into effect immediately when signed and will last until you, as the principal, revoke or destroy it. A springing POA will only go into effect when you as the principal determine it should go into effect. Medical POAs are springing POAs, as they will go into effect only when you first become incapacitated.
Who should I choose as an agent?
Anyone age 18 or older can serve as an agent for a POA. Many people choose a close friend or family member to serve as their POA agent, but it is not necessary to do so. The important thing is to only choose a person who is trustworthy, responsible, and willing to respect your wishes. Choosing a successor agent may also be a good idea if your first choice is unable or unwilling to step up when the time comes.
Creating a POA is an important part of the estate planning process. An attorney can help you through the process and make sure your document is completed correctly.