Powers of Attorney and Living Wills

Helping You Prepare for the Future

We all would like to believe we will be healthy and of sound mind throughout our lives and always able to care for ourselves. There may come a time, however, when we will need the help of a trusted person to make important decisions on our behalf.

You identify the people you trust by executing a power of attorney giving them the authority to make decisions about your finances, medical care and end-of-life matters if you become unable to make them for yourself. The time to designate your representative is now, when you have the capacity to do so. Waiting too long can prevent your wishes from being carried out, can result in unnecessary expenses and delays, and cause you to miss important planning opportunities. At the law office of Michael C. Rudolph, Esq., P.A., in Kinnelon, New Jersey, I have helped numerous clients with a variety of powers of attorney that clearly set out the authority given to your representatives and your wishes should you become critically ill.

Powers of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is a document by which you (the Principal) designate someone as your Agent or Attorney-In-Fact, and give that person the authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Typically, the Agent is a family member or a trusted friend. You can limit your Agent's level of authority to a single transaction (limited power of attorney), or you can give your Agent broad powers to do anything you could do if you were well. Powers of attorney are usually effective from the time they are executed until the time they are revoked or until the death of the principal. Powers of attorney can be set up to go into effect only upon your incapacity. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this.

Most people don't realize it, but one spouse does not have the right to sign checks or legal documents for the other spouse unless there is a validly executed power of attorney. In some cases, a power of attorney can be as important as a will, because it involves the exercise of discretion for the best interests of the principal for the rest of his/her life.

A power of attorney is called "durable" when it contains specific language that it is to remain in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated. Without the durability language, a power of attorney would become invalid with the principal's incapacity, defeating the entire purpose of executing the document.

Advance Directives (Living Wills)

Advance directives for health care, commonly referred to as living wills, allow you to make your wishes known about how you wish to be cared for in an end-of-life situation. New Jersey law gives you the right to execute a document limited to giving instructions about your wishes (an Instruction Directive). You may also execute a document by which you give no instructions and appoint a Health Care Representative to make decisions for you (a Proxy Directive - which is a form of power of attorney). Or, you may execute a document giving instructions and appointing a Representative to carry out your wishes in case you are unable to give instructions or if your intent is not clear under a given set of circumstances (a Combined Advance Directive). A living will can specify what life-saving measures should and should not be taken. It should also deal with the various issues involved with organ donation, funerals and disposal of your remains.

Medical Power of Attorney

Do you know that if you are in a hospital under emergency circumstances and you are unable to consent to medical procedures, your spouse and your children technically do not have the authority to give consent to treatment for you or even to receive information about your medical condition? Some hospitals and health care providers will listen to the family's instructions and provide information, but I have personally seen others stick strictly to the rules with bizarre results. Executing a medical power of attorney avoids this potential gap in proper medical care. Medical powers of attorney that I draft are separate from living wills because health care practitioners typically prefer two shorter documents to one long one.

I can help you with any power of attorney matters, including:

  • General durable power of attorney for property and finances authorizing the Agent to make nursing home arrangements, engage in Medicaid planning and make gifts (which are prohibited unless specifically authorized).
  • General durable power of attorney for care and custody of a child, temporary (such as picking up from school) or long term.
  • Special or limited power of attorney for real estate sales transactions.
  • Special durable power of attorney for bank account transactions.
  • Special durable power of attorney for health care matters.
  • We include HIPAA authorizations (Federal privacy law) in all of our powers of attorney and advance directives to make sure there are no problems with access to medical information or treatment.
  • Limited power of attorney for stock transactions.

Schedule an Initial Consultation

Contact my office today to discuss your questions with a lawyer. I offer appointments at my Kinnelon and Oakland offices for your convenience. I am available during regular business hours or by appointment. Both offices are handicap accessible.

Si parla Italiano