You may be prepared for what will happen if you pass away unexpectedly, but have you planned for what would happen if illness or an accident prevented you from making decisions for yourself? A Mandate (also called Power of Attorney) is a key part of estate planning, and it can help you protect your assets and your health.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a document that allows a representative that you choose to make certain decisions for you. While you can use this document to give your agent more general power, the document is often divided into medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney.

Medical power of attorney will allow your representative to make decisions about your healthcare if you are unable to make them yourself. They can hire and fire medical caretakers, make decisions about the treatments you will receive and have

Financial power of attorney, on the other hand, allows your representative to make financial decisions. This means that while the document is in effect, they will be able to pay bills, buy and sell property, and make other important financial decisions.

What types of Power of Attorney are there?

A durable power of attorney takes effect immediately after it is signed or at a date specified in the document.

A conditional power of attorney—also called “springing power of attorney”—only becomes effective under specific conditions. For example, you may decide that you want this document to come into effect when you are incapacitated, but those circumstances will have to be laid out in the document itself.

Who do I choose?

It is important to think carefully about who you will choose as your agent. The law does offer you some protections that would prevent your agent from abusing their power—for example, in Louisiana your agent cannot use power of attorney to transfer your property to themselves—they will still be able to make very important decisions for you. Because of this, you want to make sure that you choose someone you trust to act in your best interest.

Why have a Power of Attorney?

Naming someone as your agent can benefit you in several ways. First, without a Power of Attorney, if you were to become disabled, injured or ill, taking care of important medical and financial decisions could involve costly court proceedings. This document ensures that important decisions are instead made by someone that you trust.

That is not the only reason to have a Power of Attorney, however. While your future is unpredictable, by establishing a trustworthy person to act in your stead, you can have greater confidence about the safety of your health, your finances and your affairs.