Aging Well

6 Misconceptions About a Power of Attorney

If you had a television in the 2000s, you are familiar with the famous right-to-die legal case involving Terri Schiavo, her parents, and husband Michael Schiavo. After falling into an irreversible vegetative state, the question became, whether to pull the plug or keep her on life support. Without a Power of Attorney addressing medical, financial, and legal concerns, and no prescribed agent to act on her behalf, a tempestuous legal battle ensued for 15 years, until her feeding tube was finally removed. In order to better protect you and your family from future uncertainty and suffering, familiarize yourself with the 6 most common misconceptions surrounding a Power of Attorney.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a written legal document defining a legally binding relationship, between a principal, who gives financial, medical, and legal authority to an agent, to make decisions on their behalf. A POA can be used while the principal is still legally competent, in situations where they feel certain affairs are better handled by an expert or third-party, or used when they are deemed legally incompetent, to avoid the costly and time-consuming process of obtaining a court-appointed guardian to carry out their wishes. It ensures peace of mind by allowing someone you trust to take charge of important decisions, preventing future confusion amongst family members and individual suffering.

Without a Power of Attorney, you risk leaving important financial, medical, and legal decisions to the courts and a court-appointed guardian or conservator who truly may not represent or know your best interests and wishes. A 2017 CNN Money article estimates the cost of obtaining a court appointed guardian to exceed $1,000. Excess financial costs, loss of control, embarrassment, loss of time, stress, and suffering can all be prevented with some proactive thinking.



Here Are 6 of the Most Common Misconceptions About a Power of Attorney:

Misconception 1: A POA Can Be Executed When the Principal is Legally Incompetent

The most common misconception about a Power of Attorney is that a principal doesn’t have to be legally competent to execute it. Not only do they need to be legally competent to execute a POA, a person needs to be legally competent to sign and execute ALL legal documents. Legal incompetence is defined as a person who is unable to manage their affairs due to a mental deficiency, such as psychosis, lack of I.Q., illness, or deterioration of the mind. Too often, families wait until a loved one is no longer legally competent and transitioning into care, leaving a court appointed guardianship as the only viable means to enforce wishes and directives. A court appointed guardianship can be a drawn-out, time-consuming process that is costly and taxing on one’s family.

Misconception 2: A Power of Attorney Gives an Agent Unrestrained Control of a Person’s Affairs