What’s the difference between a POA, DPOA, and HCPOA?
And what about a Living Will – do I need one of those too?
Many people assume that determining how your assets will be managed after death is the most important legal decision you need to make. But at BLG, we believe that identifying who you trust to handle financial and health care decision-making on your behalf in the event of illness or injury is equally if not more important.
Technically, the state you live in already has a plan in place for the distribution of assets in the event of your death. But if you become sick or incapacitated, even temporarily, your family may not be able to access the information they need to make health care decisions, pay your bills or apply for public benefits.
Having a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) and Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) ensures that your values and best interest are supported by the person (or agent) you have designated to handle specific legal, health and financial responsibilities.
The following guidelines offer a brief overview of each document, along with the answers to frequently asked questions:
Power of Attorney or POA – A legal document, signed by a competent adult, giving authority and permission for a trusted family member or other agent to manage specific decision making on their behalf. Health care and legal/financial are the two primary types of POAs. You can also designate secondary agents, who can assume responsibility if the primary agent is unable to fulfill his/her duties.
Durable Power of Attorney or DPOA – The word Durable means that the authority granted to a POA agent will continue in the event of incapacity or incompetence. This is especially important for children who want to help with an aging parent’s finances and is required for the Medicaid application process. Many POAs are drafted with limited powers, which can make the planning process difficult or impossible. A Financial POA should give your agent broad authority to do all the things that you can do.
Health Care Power of Attorney or HCPOA – This document outlines who can have access to health care information about you and who you trust to make decisions if you are unable to for any reason. Your HCPOA should also include a HIPPA release clause. This authorizes providers to release protected health information such as test results, medical records, etc. Facilities often ask to keep a copy of the HCPOA on file, and they may also ask for a Living Will.
Living Will – This is a signed legal document outlining what your wishes are regarding medical care if you are no longer able to give informed consent. Our HCPOA document includes this language in it, outlining what each client’s wishes are regarding life sustaining measures and end of life care. This can ensure that your family and care providers have a clear sense of what your values and priorities are.
Once you have these important legal documents in place, we encourage you to talk with each person who might be involved in future decision making and, if you trust them implicitly, provide them with a copy of the documents. It’s especially important for family members to be aware of any Advanced Directives and know where to locate them, so that if an emergency occurs they feel confident making decisions.
Our professionally licensed counselors are available to help guide you through these discussions. And for additional peace of mind, ask about creating a Life Care Plan to receive ongoing support and guidance throughout all of life’s transitions. This includes helping you decide which benefits and providers are best for your needs and planning ahead whenever possible. For more information, please email BG@bradleygreene.com or call 216-575-5200.
Bradley L. Greene, Esq. is a Life Care Planning and Elder Law firm located in Beachwood, OH specializing in Estate Planning, Medicaid Planning and Elder Abuse – offering personalized support and family guidance through all of life’s transitions.