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Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive – What is the Difference?

The Importance Of A Power Of Attorney

Some of us have only heard the terms “power of attorney” and “Advance Health Care Directive” in passing or from hospital staff when a loved one is completing documents before undergoing a surgical procedure. If you have not had these crucial documents prepared for you, you may want to know: What is the difference between a power of attorney and an advance health care directive?

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that can be prepared to give another person the authority to become your “attorney-in-fact.” However, the term does not mean that this individual is a lawyer or has legal training. The attorney-in-fact is your designated agent who will act on your behalf according to the power of attorney document. Powers of attorney can be broad or general, giving the agent the ability to manage multiple areas of a person’s finances and legal. The authority can also be narrow or limited, restricting it to specific duties, accounts, a certain time period, or transaction.

Having a power of attorney allows your agent to step in take over these responsibilities without having to involve the court. These documents are essential in estate planning as they create a means for another person to step in and take over another person’s financial responsibilities if they become incapacitated. Powers of attorney can be springing or durable. When a power is springing, it comes to life when an event occurs. In the context of estate planning, the triggering event would be incapacitation. A durable power of attorney is effective upon signing.

A California Advance Health Care Directive

A California Advance Health Care Directive is a device that performs two functions. First, it allows its creator to provide specific instructions to his or her medical care providers if they are incapacitated. This can include life-saving measures and other treatment preferences. Second, the Advance Health Care Directive permits the creator to name the person that wants to act as their medical care decision-maker in their place. The medical decision-maker will take steps to ensure that the individual’s care instructions are followed. This person will also be responsible for making treatment choices on the incapacitated person’s behalf should it become necessary.

Both a power of attorney for finances and a California Advance Health Directive are critical documents to have in place should you become incapacitated. Your power of attorney for finances allows another person to watch out for your financial interests. Your California Advance Health Care Directive puts key information in front of your medical providers and allows the person you want to step in and make health care choices for you. Without these documents, a probate court would have to become involved to determine how to manage these issues on your behalf.

At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we have experience helping clients determine the best estate planning tools for their circumstances. Schedule a free consultation today to start planning your solution.