April Harris Jackson

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This week we are going to discuss how a power of attorney goes into effect. A power of attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to make decisions on your behalf. But before that power of attorney goes into effect, certain conditions must be met. Let’s get into it… 

How does a healthcare power of attorney go into effect?

A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that allows one person, such as a spouse or adult child, to make decisions on behalf of another person who can’t make decisions for themselves due to illness or disability. A healthcare power of attorney takes effect if you are unable to make decisions for yourself or communicate those decisions to your doctors. 

For example, if you are in a coma, then you are unable to make decisions. If you have a healthcare power of attorney it will go into effect. This means that your designated healthcare agent can make decisions on your behalf. They will have to follow the instructions that are set out in the power of attorney document. An attorney can help you write out the details of your healthcare power of attorney so that your wishes are clear. 

To illustrate another example, let’s say you have an injury that requires your jaw to be wired shut and both of your arms are broken. It’s going to be very difficult for you to communicate your decisions. While the doctors are going to consult with you as much as possible, having a healthcare agent helps to make sure that your wishes are communicated properly. In short, a healthcare power of attorney can help effectively communicate your medical preferences when you are unable to do so. 

How does a durable power of attorney over finances go into effect? 

Your other power of attorney is your durable power of attorney over your finances. For financial matters, there are two times when a power of attorney can become effective. The first is the immediate power of attorney, the second is the “springing” power of attorney. 

The immediate power of attorney

An immediate power of attorney is exactly what it sounds like. It takes effect immediately after you sign it. If you signed your power of attorney and then asked your attorney-in-fact to go open a bank account for you, they would have the power to do that. 

A springing power of attorney goes into effect at an event

The “springing” power of attorney

The other option is a springing power of attorney. We say it “springs” to life when you become incapacitated. You may also choose any date or other event that will bring it into effect, but you must clearly state that date or event in the document. 

For example, your primary care physician or two other doctors must say you were unable to make decisions for yourself before a power of attorney becomes effective. However, there are multiple ways that this could be written into your documents. Ask a qualified attorney to help you determine the conditions for the power of attorney to become effective. 

Don’t overthink how your power of attorney goes into effect

There are no wrong answers for when to have your power of attorney take effect. However, who you choose as your agent is more important. I encourage you to read our blog posts about who to appoint as your financial power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney. Choosing a proper agent is the most important aspect of a well-thought-out power of attorney. 

In fact, the person that you appoint should follow the same guidelines, regardless of whether you have an immediate or springing power of attorney. However, some people do not want to have anyone else able to act for them while they are able to act. That is perfectly okay. For other people, it’s more convenient to have something immediately available. Again, there’s no wrong answer. 

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