Powers of Attorney

The Durable Power of Attorney is the most important estate-planning document a person can execute. Most estate plans are really death plans but a DPOA protects the living. However, too many people execute springing powers. That means that they are only effective when the agent (the person who is appointed to act for the principal) can prove that the principal is incompetent–that is completely round the bend.

The DPOA should be immediately effective, not effective only when a stranger or two strangers (physicians in hospital because seldom is the family doctor involved) decide that the family should have information and authority. If you are not totally “with it,” you want your family in control, knowing everything first-hand. You do not want your family waiting for strangers–doctors or nurses–to fill them in with second- and third-hand facts.

If you are in an emergency room, or any where else in a hospital, you want family members with you at all times. Family members know you. Personal history is of primary importance to the medical experts, who are strangers. If you are not in control, even temporarily, your agent or agents need to know what is going on. They should have access to all information, not just what the hospital employees want to tell them.

You should consider appointing several agents with each having immediate authority. If you do not want multiple agents with immediate power, appoint at least one successor agent in case your first choice cannot act for you. I often see couples who appoint only each other. That way at least one of them is assured to be without an agent, sooner or later. If you have no agent when you are hospitalized or in a convalescent center, your family has little say about your treatment until a guardian is appointed. Once you have a guardian, it may be impossible to regain control of your life.


John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
©2010 John B. Payne, Attorney

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