I Manage My Own Stuff!

Medical Power of Attorney? Financial Power of Attorney? Durable General Power of Attorney? Allowing someone else to manage our health or property is not an easy decision.

We all want to manage our own personal affairs and make our own decisions! Handling finances, property matters and medical decisions is a private matter. (Period and end of story.) We might share decision-making with a spouse or partner. What if we do not have a spouse or partner? Sharing private information and access with another person is not easy to do.

If we become ill, have specific health concerns or are entering our wisdom years (aging), then we might consider giving a family member or friend authority to help with medical or financial matters. Whenever this authority is given, it is important we understand what we are doing and are physically able to sign a document that gives power of attorney to another person. Waiting until our minds become foggy or there is a health emergency may mean it is too late to give someone legal authority to help. If a power of attorney is not signed before an emergency comes up, then it can turn into a difficult and expensive situation for family or friends to handle.

In most cases, if there is a health emergency, a hospital or doctor will follow the directions of a spouse or immediate family, but a hospital or doctor cannot follow the directions or provide information to some other person without a power of attorney. A bank or other financial institution also cannot provide account access to any person wanting to help a disabled family member or friend, if that person does not have a power of attorney. Even a spouse who is not a joint owner or signer on an account cannot access the account without legal authority.

Powers of attorney are planning tools. These assure that you have the help and solutions in place before there are emergencies.

  • In most cases a power of attorney is not effective until a person becomes disabled. As long as a person can make his or her own decisions, then he or she will make those decisions; but if there is an emergency and that person is unable to act, then the agent named under a power of attorney can step in to help.
  • There are also powers of attorney that are effective immediately. In some cases, a person may decide that he or she needs help right away and the power of attorney can be written so the agent under the power of attorney can step in immediately to help.
  • There are typically two types of powers of attorney: a medical power of attorney (healthcare power of attorney) and a financial power of attorney. These are often referred to as durable powers of attorney. The “durable” under Arizona law means that the power of attorney has no specified end date (unless there is an end date written in the power of attorney) and it also means that the agent can continue to act despite the disability or incapacity of the person who signed the power of attorney.
  • The power of attorney ends on the death of the person who made the power of attorney or on the revocation of the power of attorney by the person who made it.

If a medical power of attorney or a financial power of attorney is not signed before an emergency situation occurs, often the only alternative for family or friends is to file a court proceeding requesting that a person be appointed by the court who can have legal authority to make medical decisions or to handle finances and property for the disabled person. A disability may be temporary or permanent but without an authorized agent to act, the court process is usually the only solution to protect the health and welfare of the disabled person. The court proceeding is often burdensome, time-consuming and expensive.

A legal professional can provide more guidance or prepare these types of documents for anyone who wants to make these arrangements. If you have a personal attorney, that attorney can answer questions and prepare these documents. Cautela Corporation is a small business providing paralegal services in Arizona; it is licensed by the Arizona Supreme Court to prepare legal documents but can provide assistance only to individuals who live in Arizona. Additional information about powers of attorney can be also be found at the Arizona Legal Form Library. This legal form library is an on-line service provided by Cautela Corporation for people who want to prepare their own documents and be sure that the legal document is correct! The legal form library will take a person through an interactive on-line process at a reduced fee, with built-in guidance and references, and without meetings or appointments. The interactive process allows a person to name a family member or friend to act as an agent or to name family members to act as joint agents, insuring that all legal requirements are met.