A power of attorney (POA) is a document you can use to let someone else make financial, legal, or medical decisions for you. The person granting the power is called the principal, and the person receiving the power to make decisions is known as the agent or attorney-in-fact.
With a durable power of attorney (DPOA), the agent can continue to make decisions for you even if you become mentally incapacitated, for example, if you develop dementia. A regular (non-durable) power of attorney ends if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated.
When is a Durable Power of Attorney Used?
A durable power of attorney is used when you want the agent’s powers to survive your mental incapacitation. Although any type of power of attorney can be made durable, they’re most commonly used for decisions related to healthcare and finances.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A durable power of attorney for health care, more commonly known as a medical power of attorney (MPOA) or health care power of attorney, is a legal form you can use to let your agent make healthcare-related decisions for you if you’re unable to do so.
A medical power of attorney is a type of advance directive and serves as a written record of the kinds of medical treatments you want or don’t want, especially for medical emergencies or end-of-life wishes. This makes a medical power of attorney durable by default, as it outlines your medical decisions if you become too ill to express them.
You can also use a medical power of attorney to plan ahead for any health-related issues, regardless of age. For example, in the event of a high-risk surgery, your agent can respond to poor outcomes by deciding on actions like resuscitation, life support, and palliative care.
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
You can use a durable power of attorney for finances to give an agent the power to make financial and legal decisions for you even when you’re incapacitated.
Because it gives the agent broad or “general” scope over the principal’s finances and other assets (unless the principal sets limits), this document is also known as a durable general power of attorney, durable financial power of attorney, or simply a durable power of attorney.
A durable financial power of attorney is frequently used for long-term financial management, where old age might make it difficult for the principal to manage their trusts, estates, and other assets.
For example, if you’re in a coma, a trusted agent can continue to file taxes or turn in insurance payments for you so that there are no problems later on.
How to Make a Power of Attorney Durable
You can make any type of power of attorney durable by explicitly stating in the POA document that the agent’s power would continue past incapacitation.
Here’s an example statement:
This power of attorney shall not be affected by my subsequent disability or incapacity, or lapse of time.
For example, when using a limited power of attorney to give an agent the ability to sell your house for you, making it durable by including the above statement in the document ensures the agent won’t lose that power if you become incapacitated.
As with all powers of attorney, a durable power of attorney must be created by the principal while they are of sound mind.
Similarly, only a principal of sound mind can revoke or revise the power of attorney. Otherwise, to override a power of attorney, the principal’s family or friends can try to prove abuse of power by the agent and pursue legal action.
A durable power of attorney (DPOA) is a legal document that gives someone you appoint the authority to make decisions for you even if you’re no longer able to decide for yourself (i.e., mentally incapacitated).