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Powers of Attorney

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Understanding Powers of Attorney

There are several different types of powers of attorney, each of which is intended to serve a different purpose. A power of attorney, or POA, allows you to appoint someone else—called an “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”—to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you cannot make such decisions for yourself. There are two basic categories of powers of attorney: power of attorney for property and power of attorney for health care.

A power of attorney for property gives your agent the authority to act in your place in matters of finances, assets, and debts. Your agent can write checks, pay your bills, manage your accounts, and even file your tax returns. He or she has a  duty to protect your best interests and to keep track of the actions taken to fulfill that duty.

By comparison, a power of attorney for health care—sometimes called a “health care proxy”—is empowered to make decisions regarding your health and medical needs. If you decide that a power of attorney for health care is appropriate, you may also wish to draft a living will or other advance medical directives that address your wishes regarding particular medical procedures and possible end-of-life care. Your health care proxy is responsible for ensuring that your wishes are followed.

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