A power of attorney is a document that enables a designated person or people to make decisions for you if you should become incapacitated. Without such a document, state law will apply to determine who has the power to make medical decisions for you. For example, this power may be given to your legal spouse, even if you are no longer on good terms. If you are on good terms with your spouse, you should consider that they may not be available to make these important decisions for you, in which case you may want to designate an alternate, second power of attorney.
Type of Power of Attorney
There are two main types of power of attorney in Maryland; general and limited powers of attorney. A general power of attorney enables a designated person to act on one’s behalf in all their personal and business affairs. This can include the ability to purchase property, make transactions on a person’s bank account, and sell stock. A limited power of attorney is limited. For example, it can give one person the right to make medical decisions only and leave the financial powers to another person.
Financial Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated, not only will you need someone to make medical decisions, but you will also need a financial power of attorney that can pay your bills, pay taxes on your property, and take care of your surviving spouse. Many people assume that if they become incapacitated, their spouse can pay bills from their account, or sell a property that is no longer appropriate, but that is not the case. Your spouse would only be able to draw from joint checking accounts, not your personal account, unless you have them designated as a financial power of attorney.
The Maryland Health Care Decision Act governs advance medical directives. This Act provides that the document, either electronic or written, must be signed and dated, and there must be two witnesses. Also pursuant to the Act, the person appointed to make medical decisions on behalf of another is called a health care agent. Anyone who agrees to be named as a health care agent can be so named, it need not be a family member. For example, in your advance directive, you can name your family physician as your health care agent as long as they agree to be so named. However, the medical center providing treatment cannot typically be named as the agent unless they were named before the treatment started.
Advance directives become operable when a person is too sick to make their own decisions, for example, if they become unconscious or unable to communicate. The decision is made by one or more attending doctors, depending on the circumstances.
Towson Estate Planning Lawyers at Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC Help Clients Draft Medical Powers of Attorney
You may not have previously thought about obtaining a power of attorney or advance medical directive. However, by the time you need it, it may be too late to draft one. Unfortunately, this can result in your medical wishes not being carried out or your financial affairs not being managed while you are ill. To schedule a free consultation with a Towson estate planning lawyer at Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC, call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online.