Quick Explanation of Power of Attorney (POA)

Power of Attorney

What is power of attorney (POA)?

  • A legal document in which your care recipient names who can help make decisions for them if they cannot. 
  • This person is often called their agent.  
  • There are two power of attorney documents: healthcare decisions and financial decisions
  • The document can be canceled or changed at any time.
Two people and a dog riding in a car

When is POA used?

Power of attorney documents are used if your care recipient can’t make or communicate a decision for themselves. For example, if they are unconscious or have a condition affecting their decision-making skills or ability to communicate.

If I am my care recipient’s agent for POA, what am I responsible for?

As an agent, you are asked to be reasonably available to help your care recipient make decisions. This does not mean you need to be available all the time. 

Do I take on my care recipient’s debts as a financial POA?

No, it does not mean you take on their debts yourself. You will be responsible for using your care recipient’s money to pay any debts they have. 

Can more than one person be named as an agent on a POA?

Yes, your care recipient can name more than one person to help make decisions. 

  • Your local Area Agency on Aging  
  • An elder law or estate planning attorney  
  • Your family doctor or another healthcare provider
  • There is no cost unless you get help from a lawyer
  • Lawyer fees depend on the level of detail you want
  • Some states also offer free or reduced cost legal clinics to help your care recipient complete the documents. 

Does my care recipient’s need a capacity assessment before naming a POA?

  • No, your care recipient does not need an assessment. 
  • They need to be able to name who they would like help from with financial or healthcare decisions.

Caregiver tip on finances

You can consider exploring a financial trust or adding more than one name to accounts. This can make it easier to pay bills now and in the future.

Expert Tip on Healthcare Decisions

If your care recipient goes to the hospital, they may be offered information about a power of attorney for healthcare. This can be a great conversation starting point. However, if they already have the power of attorney documents signed, they don’t need to have new ones signed at the hospital. Give them a copy of what you have.


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