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You need a Health Care Proxy, if you are an adult.

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you are in. If you are an adult, you always should have a Power of Attorney, according to Benefits Pro in “Designating powers of attorney: Selection, documentation, and communication best practices“. The Health Care Proxy is also very important for your estate plan.

Adult children in college and in their early adult years need health care proxies, so their parents may interact with doctors and be involved in their health care decisions. A business associate needs a Power of Attorney (POA) to sign a document for a business owner, if they are out of the country or away on business. A family member needs a POA to manage your own personal affairs, in case you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated by illness or injury.

POAs are not just for seniors. Accidents and illnesses occur and having a POA in place simply makes good sense.

Who needs a POA, and what kind of POA?

A POA is a legal document. Without it, no decision may be made on your behalf, until a court proceeding is held and a person appointed by the court. Be sure that when you name a POA, you choose a person whom you trust implicitly to manage your affairs or make decisions for you.

There are two basic types: a financial POA and a health care POA, known in NY & CT as a Health Care Proxy (HCP).

A financial POA can take care of specific things or all financial matters on your behalf. That includes paying bills, writing checks, opening and closing accounts, filing tax returns, buying and selling property (including real estate as well as investments, like stocks and bonds) or reallocating a portfolio.

Here’s a lesser-known fact: typically, a POA does not have authority over beneficiary designations. This is done so the person cannot name someone, other than the person who was chosen by the account owner. There are exceptions, so check with your estate planning attorney about your state’s rules.

The health care agent named in a Health Care Proxy can make health care decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to do so. This may include life-sustaining treatments or whether to admit you to a hospital or other kind of care facility.  It is important that you tell your health care agent your wishes as to whether a feeding tube or other life-sustaining measures should be taken.

A POA can be durable or nondurable. Durable means the powers associated with the POA remain in effect after the person becomes incapacitated. Nondurable means the powers cease when the person becomes incapacitated. For a specific goal, like signing a document if you are out of the country, a nondurable POA can work. Otherwise, you’ll want a durable POA.

An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances, including naming a POA and a Health Care Agent.

Reference: Benefits Pro (Sep. 11, 2018) “Designating powers of attorney: Selection, documentation, and communication best practices


Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.