In response to questions we receive on a recurring basis, Taft’s Private Client group initiated a series of answers to frequently asked questions. The following law update is the second in the series. We will continue to inform you of new rules and important deadlines as they arise.

Do I need a power of attorney for finances?

Yes. With a financial power of attorney, you authorize someone to manage your finances if you become incapacitated. Without this power, your family’s only alternative might be to incur the expense and heartache of guardianship. Then you become a ward and your guardian will be accountable to the probate court.

Do I need a power of attorney for health care decisions?

Yes. With a power of attorney, you authorize someone you name to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to make those decisions yourself.

What is a living will?

A living will is a document that allows you to express your wishes that life-sustaining treatment, including artificial feeding and hydration, be withheld or withdrawn if you are beyond recovery and unable to make decisions for yourself. Taft's private client attorneys can advise you on the nuances of these very personal choices and ensure that you express your wishes clearly.

What does it mean that a power of attorney is durable?

Both financial and health care powers of attorney are called “durable” when they continue in effect even after the person who created them is incapacitated. Under old English and American law, powers of attorney actually lost their authority at the incapacity of the creator (also called the “principal”). This old rule of the law of agency, which seems counterintuitive when powers of attorney most often are needed precisely because the creator is incapacitated, does not apply in a “durable” power. The power continues in effect even after the creator’s incapacity.