If you are thinking about using financial and medical powers of attorney (POA) to plan for your possible disability, it is best to keep these documents separate. You may create a joint document, but it is not a good idea.
When you create each of these documents you will have the opportunity to name an agent. The agent for a Medical Power of Attorney is called a medical or health care agent. The agent for a Financial Power of Attorney is called a financial agent. You can name the same agent to both posts if you wish, but having separate documents allows you to name different agents. Just remember, the skill sets required for each agent are dramatically different.
A financial power of attorney allows you to name a financial agent to handle some or all of your financial affairs. A financial POA can be used even when you are well. For example, if you travel for business, your financial agent can sign a document for you while you are out of town. If you plan to use your financial power of attorney for a mental disability, make sure your document is “durable” or it will not work while you are disabled.
By having a separate power of attorney for finances, you can keep your financial affairs private from your medical agent. If your document is joint, the same person who makes medical decisions will make your financial decisions. If your chosen medical agent is not good with finances, this could create a problem.
Although a financial power of attorney can be used while you are healthy, a medical POA focuses on your medical care during times when you cannot act for yourself. For example, if you are unconscious when wheeled into the hospital. While you are healthy, you can keep your medical wishes and information private from your financial agent by having a separate document.
If you are unable to communicate or you are incapacitated, your medical agent will speak with your doctors about your medical care and make decisions for you. He or she must keep your best interest and medical preferences in mind.
Reminder: it is fine to name the same person to handle both responsibilities, but be thoughtful about your selections. A financial whiz may not be your best care-giver.
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