A power of attorney or POA is a written authorization allowing one person to represent or act on another’s behalf in business transactions, private affairs, and legal matters. The person authorizing the other to act is called the principal, donor, or grantor of the power of attorney. The person authorized to act on behalf of the other is called the attorney-in-fact. A power of attorney is frequently executed for medical reasons or issues related to health care. This type of power of attorney gives the attorney-in-fact the rights and power to make health care decisions on behalf of the grantor. This critical responsibility includes the decision to terminate life support.
In the past decade there has been an increasing awareness of a special power of attorney called the advance health care directive. This power of attorney is also called a living will. Requirements for the advance health care directive vary from state to state. For example, New York and California have unique requirements that are not typical of other states. The living will is set up to designate the person who should make all decisions if you become incapacitated, either physically or mentally.
A durable power of attorney awards the attorney-in-fact the right to act on behalf of the grantor until the grantor dies or becomes incapacitated. If the grantor becomes incapacitated due to physical or mental illness, the power of attorney can continue but only if the grantor specified in the power of attorney that the power will continue in the event of that he or she became incapacitated.