Barton J. Sidle, P.A. is a member of the AARP Legal Services Network.

Power of Attorney

Avoid Problems by Having a Power of Attorney

Often overlooked until crisis strikes, a Power of Attorney is a valuable tool that everyone should have to insure relatively simple matters do not become complicated and needlessly expensive. In its simplest form, a Power of Attorney is a legal document that grants the authority for a person to act on your behalf. Without this power, communications with medical providers, financial professionals, insurers and government agencies can halt, regardless of whether you are attempting to act on behalf of your spouse, parent, sibling, child or other important person in your life.

There are two basic Powers of Attorneys everyone should have: (1) an Advance Medical Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and (2) a Personal Financial Power of Attorney. Together, these important documents serve to insure your financial and medical wishes and needs are followed efficiently, affordably and with minimal disruption.

The Advance Medical Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to appoint an agent to act in the event you are unable to make your own medical and health care decisions. Your agent is someone who knows your wishes for care and can make the necessary medical decisions on your behalf. In Maryland, this power becomes effective when two doctors, one of whom is your treating physician, certify this condition. This document usually also includes a "Living Will" provision authorizing your agent to terminate medical treatment in situations where death in imminent and there is no likelihood of recovery even if treatment is provided. When a medical crisis occurs and no power is in effect, important medical decisions and communications between your medical providers and loved ones can be needlessly delayed and complicated.

A Personal Financial Power of Attorney allows your designated agent to make financial decisions on YOUR behalf. These powers include a wide range of subjects including handling financial and business transactions, buying insurance, settling claims, filing taxes, operating business interests, making gifts and employing professional help. It is also a very effective tool if you will be out of the country and need someone to handle certain matters, or when you are physically or mentally incapable of managing your affairs. It is also important as without this power, communicating with insurance companies and government agencies to make sure your financial needs are being met will be needlessly complicated.

Trust is the key factor when choosing an agent for your power of attorney. Whether the agent selected is a friend, relative, organization, or attorney, you need someone who will look out for your best interests, respect your wishes, and won't abuse the powers granted.

For more information about Powers of Attorney and estate planning related needs for you or your loved ones, please feel free to contact attorney Bart Sidle at 410-560-2800, www.sidlelaw.com or bsidle@sidlelaw.com.