Wills and Trusts:

Understanding Advance Directives and Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is an authorization to act on someone else's behalf in a legal or business matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal or granter (of the power), and the one authorized to act is the agent or attorney-in-fact.

A power of attorney may be verbal and whether witnessed or not will hold up in court the same as if it were in writing. However, for some purposes, the law requires a power of attorney to be in writing. Many institutions, such as hospitals, banks and the Internal Revenue Service, require a power of attorney to be in writing before they will honor it, and they usually want to keep an original for their records.

An Advance Healthcare Directive Form lets you give instructions about your own health care and/or name someone else (an agent) to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make your own decisions.