A durable power of attorney (DPOA) is a legal document in which the signer appoints one or more agents to act on his behalf, indefinitely, in the event he is unable due to disability or medical incapacitation to manage his affairs himself.
Health Care Decisions
The purpose of a Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions is to appoint one or more agent(s) who will act on your behalf in the event you become medically incapacitated. Once a doctor declares you medically incapacitated, your appointed agent(s) must follow the instructions for your care you have provided in the DPOA. The DPOA lists the specific types of medical treatment you would and would not like to receive in such a situation. For example, a DPOA may indicate that you wish to receive pain medication for pain management, but not to prolong your life in the event a doctor determines that you will not return to a conscious state.
General Power of Attorney
The purpose of a General Power of Attorney is to appoint one or more persons who will make financial decisions and transactions on your behalf, and in your best interests, in the event you become medically incapacitated. The General Power of Attorney lists the specific transactions your appointed agent(s) may undertake in your name. A General Power of Attorney is also known as a Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions.
Making a POA Durable
A power of attorney is made "durable" by including a clause containing language that indicates the document is to stay in effect for the duration of your medical incapacitation or disability. The durability provision, in effect, avoids the need to have a court appoint a guardian conservator over your affairs. A durable power of attorney stays in effect until it is revoked or until the signer's death. A DPOA can only be revoked by the signer.
The majority of states (48) have adopted the Uniform Durable Power of Attorney Act, which requires that a durable power of attorney not only be in writing, but also that it include a durability clause that clearly states that the document is intended to be in effect for the duration of the signer's medical incapacitation or disability. Most states require a DPOA to be signed in the presence of a notary public. Research whether your state requires a DPOA to be notarized; if it does, without a notary acknowledgment, the DPOA will be invalid and unenforceable.
Requirements by Institutions
In addition to most states requiring a durable power of attorney to be in writing, institutions that may be asked to honor this legal document will often require that its specific powers be stated be in writing. For example, banks will not allow an appointed agent to conduct transactions on another party's behalf without written proof of the agent's appointment and scope to act.