A power of attorney grants to someone else – called the agent, attorney-in-fact, or surrogate -- the right to make legally-binding decisions for the person who grants that authority. This power of attorney for health care and for a power of attorney for finances. A power of attorney may be limited to certain decisions only, or to a specific time period, or it may be open-ended. It can be revoked at any time by the person granting it. But unless it's specifically described as a "durable" power of attorney, its authority ends if and when the person granting the authority becomes incapable of making his or her own decisions.
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A "durable" power of attorney for health care (also called a living will, advance health care directive) or for finances continues in effect if and when the person granting the authority cannot longer make decisions – either temporarily or permanently. For people who want to make sure that their wishes about end-of-life medical care are followed, and who want their financial matters handled in a particular way after they can no longer make decisions, they must specifically state in their power-of-attorney documents that the authority granted is "durable."