What happens if you are unable to make your own medical or financial decisions?  Who will make those important decisions for you?  If you have not considered the answer to those questions, giving the issue some thought is time well spent.  There is a legal way for you to designate the person of your choice as the individual who makes your medical decisions or your financial decisions.  This legal method is called a power of attorney or POA.

The name can be admittedly confusing.  Some people believe that you must pick sometime who is a licensed attorney to make these decisions because the document is called “power of attorney”.   This is not the case.  Instead think of a POA as a “Chosen Decision Maker or Manager”.  Many people choose a family member or trusted friend as long as that family member or friend is an adult.

Choosing a person to manage your money and property is an important step to making sure you are protected if you become ill or are unconscious from an accident.  If your doctor says you are unable to make your own decisions, your chosen manager a/k/a POA can make financial decisions for you.  That means the person you designate can pay your bills and take care of important financial tasks for you until you can do so yourself.  The document which gives the person you choose the power to act for you is called a General Durable Power of Attorney.  Asking an attorney to prepare one is not very expensive and can help ensure that the person you choose and trust is in control of your money when you cannot be.

If you are unable to make your own medical decisions, it is probably important to you to have a person making those decisions who knows you well and understands your wishes.  You can ask an attorney to prepare a Medical Power of Attorney (also called a Health Care Power of Attorney) which gives a chosen person the right to make medical decisions if you are unable.  Using a Medical Power of Attorney you can also inform your chosen decision maker about your wishes if you are in a vegetative state from which you will not recover or if you are being kept alive through artificial hydration or nutrition.  You may have strong beliefs about these issues and wish for your decision maker to understand and follow your choice.

It is not pleasant to think about a time when you would be unable to make your own decisions.  However, facing that issue long before it could ever happen will give you peace of mind that you have taken care of important issues like your health and finances.  You will also help your loved ones take better care of you.