What is a durable power of attorney?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What is a durable power of attorney?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

There are two types of powers of attorney: one that pertains to finances, and the other to medical care.

A power of attorney for finances is a document in which a person -- or sometimes an institution such as a bank or trust company – is designated to handle another person's financial affairs.

This document can be tailored to authorize the person to handle everyday financial matters such as rent, insurance, and doctors' bills, as well as major matters such as sale of assets or the management of a business, property, or investments. And it can be set up either to take effect immediately – or only in when a person becomes incapable of handling his or her own financial matters.

In a power of attorney for health care, a specific person can be given the legal authority to make sure your patient's wishes for medical care are followed, or can make all other decisions related to that care, generally including:

  • consenting to or refusing any medical treatment or diagnostic procedure related to physical or mental health, including artificial nutrition and hydration
  • hiring and firing medical providers
  • admitting to and discharging from hospitals and long-term care facilities
  • accessing to all medical records, and
  • giving directions regarding organ donation.