Power of Attorney Simplified


There’s a lot to consider when it comes to planning for the future. How do you want to enjoy your retirement years? What will you do if you ever need long-term care? Will you age at home or will you move to a senior living community?

Thinking through the answers to these types of questions with a spouse, partner, or loved one can help you eliminate uncertainty and have peace of mind in retirement.

One important thing you’ll need to decide is who will act as your power of attorney.

A power of attorney, or POA, is a legal document that lets you grant another person the authority to make decisions on your behalf.

What is a Power of Attorney?

 POAs are powerful documents that ensure important decisions about your family, finances, and healthcare will be handled, even if you are unable to make these decisions yourself.

By creating a POA, you get to decide exactly who can make decisions for you in an accident, illness, or medical emergency. You define the types of decisions this person can make and in what circumstances you would want them to step in. 

The person named in a power of attorney to act on your behalf is commonly referred to as your “agent” or “attorney-in-fact.”

Without a POA document, it could become necessary for a court to appoint one or more people to act for you if you are unable to manage your personal or business affairs.

Who Should Serve as Your Power of Attorney?

Many people name their spouses, children, or other family members. There are no special qualifications necessary for someone to act as a POA – the best choice is someone you trust. 

Some people choose to divide the responsibilities – giving the authority to make medical decisions to one person and the authority to make financial decisions to another, for example.

What are the Different Types of Power of Attorney? 

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable POA means your agent’s authority to act on your behalf continues if you become incapacitated. For example, they could step in to make medical decisions if you had a stroke. This is the most common POA used for estate planning.

Non-Durable Power of Attorney

With a non-durable POA, your agent’s power to act ends if you become incapacitated. Non-durable POAs aren’t often used in estate planning, but they can be useful in other scenarios. For example, you might grant your stock broker a non-durable POA so they can manage your investments day-to-day.

Springing Power of Attorney

Once you execute a traditional POA, it’s effective immediately and the agent can act on your behalf at any time. 

A springing POA, on the other hand, only gives your agent the power to act when a specified condition is met, usually incapacitation. Once the condition is met, your agent’s power “springs” into effect.

Many people like the idea of a springing POA when they first hear about it because they want to control their situation and circumstances for as long as possible.

However, most attorneys don’t recommend using springing POAs for estate-planning purposes. This is because the process of determining whether you’re incapacitated isn’t always straightforward, and can take time.

For example, if you develop dementia, it may not be clear whether or not you can manage your affairs. Your agent, doctors, and loved ones may have different opinions about what it means to be incapacitated. These delays could mean that your agent can’t act on your behalf right away, leaving bills unpaid and delaying decisions about your medical care.

Special Power of Attorney

A financial or medical POA is considered a type of special or limited power of attorney because it gives your agent authority to act on your behalf regarding certain subject matters of your choosing.

In a financial POA you might grant your agent power to:

  • Pay your bills and your family’s expenses.
  • Make bank deposits and withdrawals.
  • Collect and manage your retirement benefits.
  • Sell or rent your real estate.
  • File your taxes.

In a Medical POA you might grant your agent power to make decisions related to:

  • Medical treatments.
  • Medication.
  • Surgery.
  • End-of-life care.
  • The doctors and hospitals used to administer your care.

You can give someone as much or as little power as you want. You might decide to give your agent authority over all financial affairs, or you might choose to only give your agent authority over your bills and taxes.

How Long Does a Power of Attorney Last?

Just like you can choose when a POA goes into effect, you can also choose when a POA will end.

In most states, “durable” power of attorney remains valid once signed until you die or revoke the document in writing. 

Some powers of attorney include termination dates or conditions to minimize the risk of former friends or spouses continuing to serve as agents. 

Which Type of POA Should You Choose?

The best type of POA for you will depend on your preferences and the particular situation you’re planning for – there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s best to meet with an attorney or estate planning professional to consider your options.

Planning For Retirement 

At Senior Star we understand that there are a number of decisions to make throughout your retirement journey. 

The caring staff in our communities want to be a source of information for you and your family. Check out our helpful guides to find a wealth of resources that can assist you with your planning.