Durable Powers of Attorney & Health Care Directives - FAQs

Durable Powers of Attorney & Health Care Treatment Directives - FAQs

What is a durable power of attorney (DPOA)?

A power of attorney (POA) is a written document authorizing someone else to act as your agent (a/k/a attorney-in-fact) to carry out certain tasks on your behalf.  The authority of your attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf is revoked when you become incapacitated.  However, under Missouri law, you can create a durable power of attorney allowing your agent to continue to act on your behalf even if you are incapacitated.  Once you pass away, the power of attorney (durable or otherwise) is terminated.  In estate planning, working with your attorney to prepare a "durable power of attorney" appointing an agent to act on your behalf can be extremely helpful.  For example, simple tasks (i.e., paying bills, making deposits, selling stocks, etc.) may be prevented unless you have a durable power of attorney when you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated.

Are there different types of powers of attorney?

Yes.  For example, a power of attorney can be limited to a specific purpose (i.e., allowing for a spouse, as your agent, to execute real estate documents at closing, appointing an agent to make your medical decisions for you, etc.) or general (i.e., allowing your agent to do many things for you, such as manage all of your financial and business matters).  A power of attorney can allow for someone else (attorney-in-fact or agent) to act on your behalf right now or only upon certain conditions. For example, a springing power of attorney may prohibit your agent from managing your financial affairs until two physicians have certified that you are unable to manage your own financial affairs. Some mutual fund companies, brokerage firms, banks, and other investment companies may be partial to their own power of attorney forms and, as a result, you may execute multiple powers of attorneys to allow your designated agent to manage your financial affairs.

What is a health care treatment directive?

A health care directive has also been referred to as a living will.  A health care directive is a written declaration of your desires regarding your health care under certain circumstances, whether or not you wish to make anatomical gifts and, if so, to what institution.  A health care directive may or may not include designation of an agent to act on your behalf in articulating your wishes to health care providers should you be determined to be unable to do so by either one or two physicians.  Under Missouri law, a health care directive is designed to articulate your desires regarding avoidance or continuation of treatment when death is imminent and the treatment is ineffective to avoid or significantly delay death. For example, when death is imminent and you have no reasonable likelihood recovery, you may elect not to receive CPR, ventilator assistance, artificially supplied nutrition or hydration, or other surgical or medical care.