Powers of Attorney, Health Directives or Living Will, & Last Wishes
Documents associated with a comprehensive estate plan include Powers of Attorney, Health Directives, and a Living Will, as well as Last Wishes and other documents that accompany your Will.
Here is an overview of the most important documents associated with your plan:
General (Statutory) Durable Power of Attorney
This document is much more important then a Will while you are alive if you are ever unable to handle your affairs for any reason. A general durable power of attorney allows your attorney-in-fact to handle your affairs. Without a current signed power of attorney in place, a conservator would have to be appointed by the court to manage your assets or those assets outside of your trust if you have created one. Under Colorado law, a principal must specifically grant certain “hot” powers to be exercisable by the agent, rather than as a broad general grant of power. This document should generally be updated at least every five (5) years.
Limited or Special Power of Appointment
A general power of appointment grants very broad powers to your agent. However, if you only need your agent to perform a specific task or want to limit the amount of time the agent can exercise authority over your assets, a limited power of appointment will provide for a temporary or restricted grant of power over your assets. For example, a limited power of attorney could be used if you needed to be hospitalized for a short time and needed someone to look after your affairs for a few only a few weeks, or if you wanted your investment advisor to make decisions on investing a certain amount of cash held by your revocable trust but did not want his authority to extend beyond those decisions.
Medical Power of Attorney
The Powers of Attorney described above only allow the person designated to conduct your financial affairs and limited personal matters. The Medical Powers of Attorney allow the person designated to make medical decisions for you, including the withholding or removal of life support, in the event you are unable to. Your agent can be the same for your Medical POA and your Statutory POA, or you may choose different representatives.
Advanced Directive for Medical or Surgical Treatment (Living Will)
The Living Will instructs a physician how you wish to be treated if you require life support and you have a terminal condition or are in a persistent vegetative state. This is different from the Medical Power of Attorney which names someone to make all medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Under Colorado law, a Living Will controls over a Medical Power of Attorney unless you indicate otherwise.
This form authorizes your agents to obtain your medical information in order to determine if you are incapacitated or what treatment you need. It is also a good idea to have your agents sign such a release so it can be determined if his or her capacity can be evaluated if there is a problem.
Declaration of Last Wishes
This document allows you to provide for any ceremonial or burial instructions and wishes regarding organ donation.