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Powers of Attorney

IF YOU BECOME incapacitated toward the end of your life, it may be difficult for your family to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf unless you have durable powers of attorney drawn up.

You will likely want two powers of attorney, one for health care matters and the other for financial decisions. These powers of attorney are often “springing,” meaning they don’t become effective until a doctor certifies that you are incapacitated.

With a durable power of attorney for financial matters, you specify what your “agent”—who might be your spouse or an adult child—can do on your behalf. This might include paying bills, making portfolio decisions, handling bank transactions and filing taxes. If you don’t make such an arrangement and you become incapacitated or incompetent, your family may have to go through the cost and hassle of asking the court to appoint a guardian.

Meanwhile, a health care power of attorney (sometimes called a health care proxy) allows your agent to make medical decisions. As part of the health care power of attorney, or in a separate living will, you can detail your wishes concerning life-prolonging medical procedures.

Next: Last Instructions

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