Powers of Attorney vs. Health Care Directives

Powers of Attorney vs. Health Care Directives

Many people are unfamiliar with the legal distinctions between powers of attorney, health care directives, and guardianships/conservatorships.

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document giving authority to another person to act for you in either specified or all legal and financial matters. The person giving power of attorney must presently have the capacity to do so. That is, they must understand what they are doing and be able to make important decisions. If you are concerned that you may become incapacitated for health or another reason (for example, unavailable due to being out of the country), it is a good idea to give power of attorney to someone that you trust. Note: This person will have the authority to conduct legal or financial transactions as if they are you, with no further notice to or permission from you, so be very careful when granting someone your power of attorney.

Health Care Directive

A Health Care Directive, also known as a living will, personal directive, advance directive, or medical directive is a legal document specifying what actions should be taken for a person’s health if they no longer can make decisions for themselves due to illness or incapacity. In your health care directive, you make decisions about whether you would want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are terminally ill or permanently incapacitated, or whether to allow other treatment which would keep you alive but which could not cure you. You can also designate someone to make those decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

Guardianship/Conservatorship

A Guardianship or Conservatorship is granted only in instances in which an individual is already mentally or physically incapacitated and cannot take care of himself or manage his affairs. There must be medical evidence in support of same presented for the Court to order a Guardianship or Conservatorship. A Guardianship applies to matters affecting the person, and Conservatorship strictly applies to their assets and financial affairs.

Please contact Herlihy Family Law if we can assist you or your family with a Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, or Guardianship/Conservatorship.