Frequently asked questions about Powers of Attorney
What is a Power of Attorney?
When you give someone else, called your agent, authority to act on your behalf, you are giving them your Power of Attorney. Powers of Attorney are created by writing out the exact authority you give your agent, and then signing the document.
When you see the word “durable” included in a Power of Attorney, that means the authority to act on your behalf does not end if you become incapacitated.
What does a Power of Attorney do?
There are multiple types of Powers of Attorney, and each type gives your agent a different ability to act on your behalf. A Power of Attorney for Finances allows your agent to make decisions about money, investments, property, and taxes. A Living Will sets out end of life decisions. Power of Attorney for Health Care allows your agent to make health care choices, except for mental health treatment or end of life decisions, which each require their own Powers of Attorney. In Idaho, the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care are combined into a single document for end of life and health care decisions. A Power of Attorney can also be used to temporarily give authority to another adult to make decisions for your children.
You may select different agents for each type Power of Attorney, or you may select the same agent for multiple. You should also have successor agents selected in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act on your behalf.
It is important to know that Powers of Attorney can be revoked in writing, or verbally as long as you have not been determined to be incapacitated
Does my Power of Attorney work after I have died?
Powers of Attorney are only valid while you are alive, and thus end upon your death. When you die your personal representative (if you have a will) or your trustee (if you have a trust) are responsible for making decisions for your estate.
Are there multiple types of powers of attorney?
It is important to know that Powers of Attorney can be given separately for:
- Finances – Frequently called Power of Attorney or Financial Power of Attorney, this type must be notarized if it gives your agent the authority to make real estate decisions. More information can be found in Idaho Code § 15-12.
- Medical – Called a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you can find more information in Idaho Code § 39-4510.
- Mental Health – This type of Power of Attorney is called the Declaration for Mental Health and is specific to mental health treatment. You can find more information in Idaho Code § 66-613.
- Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) – This document can only be completed with your medical provider and deals specifically with end-of-life care. More information can be found in Idaho Code § 39-4512A
- Delegation of Parental Authority – This type of Power of Attorney is used when a parent or guardian needs to temporarily give powers for medical care and educational care for their child to another adult. You can find more information in Idaho Code § 15-5-104
How do I know who to pick to be my agent?
Agents are individuals who you trust to make decisions on your behalf when you are alive but unable. Typically a family member or trusted friend is selected as an agent.
When selecting an agent, it is important to identify an individual who is able to make the decisions you have asked them to even if other people disagree. It is helpful if they are able to get along with your family members, but that is not required. Consider someone who has the time and ability to contact financial institutions, handle paperwork, and manage the details of your care as needed.
It is important to know that an agent only has authority while you are alive. Once you have died, your personal representative or trustee will handle your estate. Because successor trustees often have authority to act if the trustee has become incapacitated, often successor trustees are named as agents for Financial Powers of Attorney.