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Understanding the purpose of a durable power of attorney

Understanding the purpose of a durable power of attorney

On Behalf of | Jan 14, 2022 | Estate Planning

People in New Jersey and around the country who are planning their estates often spend so much of their efforts deciding how and what to leave behind for their loved ones after they’re gone that they forget to consider how their own needs may change as they get older. Some health conditions may appear or worsen with age, affecting their quality of life, and an individual’s mental acuity can begin to deteriorate, leaving them incapacitated and vulnerable.

For residents of Jackson Township, knowing what documents to prepare along with the creation of a will or trust is an essential part of estate planning. A power of attorney (POA) gives a trusted relative, friend or legal professional, called the agent, the authorization to act on behalf of the principal in health-related or financial matters.

Being able to choose a spouse, family member, or close friend to be your advocate when it comes to your care, choice of treatments or medications if you become incapacitated is arguably the most important part of your estate planning.

Purpose of a POA for healthcare

In New Jersey, a medical POA is essentially a type of advanced directive that usually accompanies a living will and other estate-planning documents, empowering the designated agent to make healthcare and end-of-life decisions on behalf of the principal. A Durable POA is the most common advanced directive for healthcare, as it does not end if the principal becomes incapacitated or legally incompetent.

Once the principal’s doctor determines that the principal is incapacitated, the agent will have the authority to speak to the principal’s medical providers about treatment options, to have access to the principal’s medical records, and to grant or prohibit access to the principal by relatives and friends.

The agent is authorized to make decisions on behalf of the principal regarding the facility, surgeries, or other treatments, including the withholding of treatments, tests, or medications. The agent also has the authority to accept or reject a healthcare provider’s services.

For a Durable POA to be valid in the Garden State, the documents must be signed and dated and have two witnesses present who will attest that the principal is of sound mind and not unduly influenced. A Durable POA is revokable on oral or written notification by the principal, and a divorce will also revoke a former spouse’s designation as agent.

 

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