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Protecting yourself from the possibility of incapacity
A power of attorney can help a person protect him or herself from the possibility of incapacity.

Massachusetts residents may not often think about what would happen if they suddenly couldn’t make decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, incapacitating events can and do happen to people for a number of reasons, such as a serious car accident, a trip overseas gone wrong or even an unanticipated illness. Most people don’t like to think of something like this ever happening to themselves, but it is always good to be prepared. One way to protect yourself from this possibility is to create a power of attorney that will give a trusted person the power to make decisions in the event of your own incapacity.

What authority does a power of attorney have?

Powers of attorney can be as limited or as broad as the person granting the power wants it to be. For example, one can create a medical power of attorney which allows the person granted the power to make medical decisions for the grantor in the event that he or she is incapacitated, but does not allow the person to make any other types of decisions. There are also financial powers of attorney that will allow the person to make financial decisions for the grantor and have access to all financial records.

Powers of attorney, however, do not have to be so specific. It is possible in some states to create a power of attorney that would give the grantee the power to do anything that the grantor could if he or she were making the decision. Powers of attorney can even be effective while the person still has capacity, or it can be created so it only becomes effective upon the grantor’s incapacity.

Who can be my power of attorney?

Anyone can be a power of attorney for the most part, but people should make sure that they appoint someone that they trust to have these important responsibilities. People can also appoint more than one power of attorney to represent them; the document should clarify whether the people appointed must act jointly or whether they can act individually when making decisions. Powers of attorney can be revoked as long as the grantor still has capacity.

When do I need to create a power of attorney?

A power of attorney can be created any time prior to a person’s incapacity. That said, it is far better to plan ahead than to be unprepared in the event that you are incapacitated. For example, when going on a trip, many people do not think about the need for a power of attorney, but it is an important part of trip planning. When people have traveled abroad and an emergency happens at home, they may have to cut their trip short and scramble to get back home to take care of the emergency. However, if a power of attorney has been created, the grantee can take care of the emergency so that the grantor will not have to travel home.

An estate planning lawyer is a great resource for those wishing to create a power of attorney. A lawyer can discuss the consequences of creating a power of attorney and help people draft a document that will give only the powers that they wish to give.

Keywords: power of attorney, incapacitating event
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