When you use a power of attorney, you give someone else the ability to do things that would normally be prohibited. They may be allowed to access your bank account, for example. They may be allowed to make medical decisions for you. These are the types of things that individuals are usually only allowed to do for themselves.
This is one reason that some people will not use a power of attorney in their estate plan. They don’t want to sign away their ability to make their own decisions. They don’t want someone else to be in charge of them or get to make those choices for them. They’re worried that creating the power of attorney is going to instantly change their life. But is it?
Incapacitation is the trigger
Although there are many different ways to set up a power of attorney, and it could technically be written to take over immediately, this is usually not the case. Instead, it will come with a triggering event, which is usually incapacitation.
In other words, if you wrote a power of attorney today, you could still make all of your medical decisions and financial decisions. But if you suddenly had a stroke or a heart attack and wound up in the hospital, unconscious and unable to do all of this on your own, then the power of attorney would kick in and your agent could take over. If you recovered and were able to make your own decisions again, your agent would then lose that power.
You don’t have to worry that you won’t be able to make your own choices. A power of attorney is just a safety net, and it’s very important to understand all the estate planning tools you can use.