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What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is an agreement between the principal and the agent that authorizes the agent to do acts specified in the document for the benefit of the principal. There are several different types of Powers of Attorney, including Limited (Special), General, and those dealing with healthcare issues. A General Power of Attorney is a very broad authorization to do any act the Signer or Principal of the power could do, most often having to do with financial affairs.

With a Limited or Special Power of Attorney, the principal may limit a power of attorney by its terms in any way such as scope, authority, or duration.

Powers of attorney can be a valuable tool for planning for future needs. In the wrong hands, they can also lead to disastrous results. It is important to have discussions about these issues before a document like the Power of Attorney is needed.

What is an Advance Directive?
An Advance Directive is a document authorizing a trusted family member or friend to make health care decisions when the principal is not capable of making and communicating those decisions himself or herself. It is a key part of estate and disability planning. The principal may use the advance directive form to give health care instructions for the health care representative and providers to follow. The instruction choices in the form relate to end-of-life care.
What is the difference between an Advance Directive and a POLST form?

The Advance Directive is not the same as the POLST form. Each has it's own purpose and use. CLICK HERE to learn more.

What is the difference between a Will and Trust?

One main difference between a Will and a Trust is that a Will goes into effect only after you die, while a Trust takes effect as soon as you create it. Another difference between a Will and a Trust is that a Will passes through probate. That means a court oversees the administration of the Will and ensures the Will is valid and the property gets distributed the way the deceased wanted. A Trust passes outside of probate, so a court does not need to oversee the process, which can save time and money. Wills and trusts each have their advantages and disadvantages.

What is Probate?

Probate is the most common form of administration after death. Probate is the court-supervised procedure for settling the decedent’s liabilities, determining who is entitled to the decedent’s property, and making the transfers.

Probate requires the appointment of a personal representative (referred to as the executor in some states). If the decedent dies with a Will, the personal representative ultimately appointed is usually the first nominee named in the decedent’s Will. If the decedent dies without a Will, the personal representative is usually the decedent’s spouse, child, or close relative.

Do I need a Will?

The short answer is "yes." A Will gives you control over who will administer your estate when you die and how your assets will be distributed. Parents of young children should have Wills prepared to provide for their children in the event something were to happen to both of them. It is also very important to have a Will or Trust if you or your spouse is a step-parent.

What is a Guardianship?

Guardianship is a court-ordered relationship in which a judge appoints one person to manage the health care and placement decisions of another. The person who has a guardian appointed is referred to as a protected person. A protected person under a guardianship is someone who is determined to be legally incapacitated. A protected person can be a child or an adult.

If a person becomes incapable of making decisions on their own about their medical treatment or everyday life, and their health or safety may be in danger, they may need a Guardian to assist them.

What is Conservatorship?

Conservatorship is a court-ordered relationship in which a judge appoints one person to manage the financial affairs of another. A protected person in a conservatorship is found to be financially incapable.

A conservator oversees the protected person’s finances, income and assets. A conservator does not make health care related decisions, but may work with other decision-makers to secure housing or other medical services. It is possible for a protected person to have both a conservator and a guardian. It is also possible for an individual to serve as both the conservator and guardian.