Enduring Powers of Attorney and Advance Health Directives

What is an enduring power of attorney?

An enduring power of attorney is a document that appoints another person to act on your behalf, even in circumstances where you are unable to act yourself.

What powers can I give to my attorney?

You may appoint a power of attorney to act on your behalf for financial matters, such as the operation of your bank accounts and the transfer of your property or for personal matters, like health care and housing.  Your attorney’s powers can be as broad or as narrow as you like.

When can my attorney act for me?

An attorney may be appointed to act either immediately upon the signing of the power of attorney or upon the happening of a specified event.  An immediately effective power of attorney can be preferable as it can be used when unanticipated circumstances arise – for example if you are on holidays overseas and you lose your passport and all of your traveller’s cheques.  On the other hand, a power of attorney that comes into effect only on the certification by a doctor that you are incapable of acting for yourself provides greater peace of mind that your power of attorney cannot be misused.

Can I appoint more than one attorney?

You can appoint more than one attorney and decide how they are to act.  For example, you may appoint your husband to act for you unless he is unable or unwilling to act, in which event you appoint your adult child.

Why do I need an enduring power of attorney?

A power of attorney is the appointment of a trusted person to stand in your shoes to make decisions for you in your absence.   A power of attorney can give you peace of mind that your affairs will be in order in circumstances where your decision making capacity is taken away from you unexpectedly.

What is an advanced health directive?

Some advanced health care decisions cannot be made by your attorney.  They must be made by you with the assistance of your doctor.  While your doctor will consult with your attorney, the only way to ensure that your wishes will be carried out is to prepare an Advanced Health Directive with your doctor.  The Advanced Health Directive is a series of questions about your health care wishes which you complete with your doctor and then sign in the presence of a solicitor or justice of the peace to confirm your instructions. Importantly this includes the decision to refuse treatment where you suffer from a terminal illness.

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