A Power of Attorney (POA) is a relatively simple document that allows you to grant specific powers to someone you appoint, an “agent.” This document can be straightforward, outlining complete control over decisions made on your behalf. You can also outline specific tasks or a timeline you want the agent to follow.
Does One Power of Attorney Handle All Tasks?
POA have multiple titles in Massachusetts, and below we will briefly discuss the two most popular options that are beneficial to have.
A medical POA allows someone to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. This document is typically called the “health care proxy” and can cover previously decided medical decisions. Some common examples include listing procedures you would not want performed, or when to end treatment. Your medical POA should handle a crisis well, and you should feel confident in their ability to carry out your wishes and understand your vision.
A financial POA allows someone to handle your financial or business matters. This person can file taxes for you, write checks to pay bills, manage your investments, hire attorneys to represent you, pay medical bills, and more. You can outline which tasks you would like your agent to take care of.
Generally speaking, it is beneficial to have both POAs set up and to have them both be durable POAs. What this allows for is the ability of the agent to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated or mentally incompetent. For example, this need can arise with a cancer or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and your agent can continue to handle your affairs for you.
Should My Spouse Be My Power of Attorney?
It is crucial to choose someone you can trust and have faith in to handle the decisions you would like carried out, should you not be able to. In many cases, a spouse is an excellent fit for this position. They can handle things if you cannot tend to them due to travel or career demands, such as your banking or investment needs. If your agent is designated a durable POA, they can also handle these tasks for you should you become incapacitated.
When choosing a health care proxy or Medical POA, a spouse is also a good choice, with some exceptions. If you have adult children or other trusted family members who fully understand your medical decisions and wishes, they may be a better fit.
Your spouse may be overwhelmed with emotions, and stressed due to handling the crisis. This idea is one of the reasons some spouses will choose another person to be their healthcare proxy, so it is essential to note and discuss it with your spouse. You can never fully prepare yourself for when a healthcare crisis occurs, but it is an invaluable conversation to have when planning for the unknown.
Why is it Important to Designate a Spouse?
People often assume that a spouse automatically has rights to your financial or medical affairs based on them being married to you. This isn’t always the case, depending on how you structure financial documents or accounts. They may have limitations you are unaware of, so listing them as a POA can be appealing for some should unknown circumstances arise.
For example, suppose you are out of town for career demands, and your spouse needs you to sign documents regarding a loan or other financial needs. If you have them set up as a POA, they can step in and handle these transactions quickly rather than worrying about whether or not they are listed on the accounts you need to operate in your absence.
Legal Requirements for a POA in Massachusetts
The person creating a POA and the person designated to be the agent must both be of sound mind. It can be beneficial to consult an experienced attorney to determine that this requirement is met, as it can be a gray area within the courts regarding what constitutes a “sound mind.”
Notarizing the POA is not required in Massachusetts. However, it can be beneficial to have all documents notarized for them to be “bulletproof.” Some banks or institutions will have their own rules regarding a POA, and if you have the document notarized, it can alleviate stress for the agent when they attempt to carry out your wishes for you when the time comes.
Why Consult an Attorney?
It may be appealing to some to draft their own POA documents without an attorney, however you may fail to include listing certain situations or items that an experienced attorney would not overlook. As no two families are alike, a qualified attorney can help to ensure you have covered all of your bases and have protected yourself and your family based on your specific needs for years to come.
Our experienced and compassionate team has worked with several families over the years to prepare them for the unknown. We are confident we can help you, too. Contact our office today at (781) 606-9002 to discuss your specific needs and learn how we can best assist you. It is a basic instinct for you to protect your family, and it is our basic instinct to ensure that we are your trusted advocate for doing just that.