A Power of Attorney (POA) allows a person, the Principal, to appoint one or more Agents to perform specific legal and financial acts on behalf of the Principal. A valid Power of Attorney avoids the need for a court appointed guardian of the estate should a person need assistance with their financial affairs.
In 2012, Ohio's Power of Attorney Act was enacted, which helped improve Ohio's law, including agent duties, and provided a common statutory form. A major driver of this act was the prevention of elder abuse.
Importantly, it clarified the use of what are commonly called hot powers - powers that would allow an agent to dissipate the Principal's assets or change his/her estate plan. It is important when preparing a power of attorney to decide whether or not you wish for your Agent to have such powers, and under what circumstances.
Most POA's are durable, meaning they continue during any period of incapacity, but there are also Limited POA's that limit the agent's powers to act to specific, limited situations.
A Health Care Power of Attorney documents a person’s wishes about who they want to serve as their agent to make healthcare decisions for them if something happens and they are unable to make their own decisions. The agent must act consistently with the principal's wishes. A Healthcare POA is important because it can eliminate the need for court involvement to appoint a guardian if the person becomes incapacitated and needs assistance with personal & health matters. It can also reduce family stress and disagreements over what health care a person would want in a particular situation.
A Living Will lets medical personnel and family know what a person's wishes are with regards to life sustaining treatment. Specifically it concerns use of artificial nutrition and hydration if the person is terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
It's important to have your POA's and Directives in place before something should happen. If these documents are not in place, a guardianship would have to be opened if a person is unable to manage his or her own affairs due to mental or physical impairment.
For all of a person's financial, personal & medical directives, it is crucial to select a trusted individual to serve as Agent.
Attorney Deanna Durbin of the Akron, Ohio, law firm of Durbin Law Office, LLC, provides probate, estate planning, and trust and estate administration legal services in the cities of Akron, Bath, Richfield, Fairlawn, Copley, Norton, Wadsworth, Medina, Doylestown, Cuyahoga Falls, Stow, Tallmadge, Munroe Falls, Hudson, and surrounding Summit, Stark & Medina County areas.
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