Medical Powers of Attorney
A medical power of attorney allows you to designate another person (an agent) to make their medical decisions if you cannot make them. It is important to note that these documents only come into play when you cannot act for yourself. As long as you are in your right mind and conscious, you can make your own decisions. It will cover who should make your decisions, what powers your agent should have regarding "do not resuscitate orders", life saving measures, nursing home placement and end of life decisions. The document allows you to choose whether you want to be an organ donor or whether you want to leave your body to science. This document is "durable" and takes effect from the day you sign it until the day you die. Your agent does not have to obtain a court order indicating that you are incompetent in order to use the document. Your agent can use the document at a time when they think it is appropriate. This document allows your agent to talk with the doctors in real time when they can advise as to the best course of action.
Financial Powers of Attorney
A financial power of attorney, allows you to designate another person (an agent) to access your financial accounts and do tasks such as pay your bills if you cannot. Again, it is important to note that these documents only come into play when you cannot act for yourself. Your agent can make financial and investment decisions, pay your bills, contract for services that you need (such as supplemental oxygen or grocery delivery) and pay for other goods and services for your benefit. Your agent does not have to obtain a court order indicating that you are incompetent and can use the document at a time when your agent believes it is appropriate.
The "Living Will"
People often say they have a "living will". That document is not really a will at all. In Colorado, this document is called the Declaration as to Medical and Surgical Treatment. It allows you to set forth parameters around surgical and medical treatment. In this document you will designate how long you wish to be on life support, how long you wish to receive artificial nourishment and hydration and when such services should be discontinued. This document is not necessarily a flexible document as the parameters for care must be chosen at the time of execution of the document even though you will not know what your condition is in the future. Typically this document handles your last illness. A person can execute both a Medical Power of Attorney and also the Declaration as to Medical and Surgical Treatment. However, it is beneficial if both documents are consistent and do not conflict with each other.
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