Power of Attorney During a Coma

By Teo Spengler

Medical emergencies arrive without advance warning, but a prudent person can prepare for the unexpected with an appropriate power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document appointing someone, known as the agent, to act in your place in managing your finances or health care. Many types of powers of attorney exist but only those termed durable remain effective if you become incapacitated.

Medical emergencies arrive without advance warning, but a prudent person can prepare for the unexpected with an appropriate power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document appointing someone, known as the agent, to act in your place in managing your finances or health care. Many types of powers of attorney exist but only those termed durable remain effective if you become incapacitated.

Purpose

If you have prepared a power of attorney, a trusted person can step in and take the reins if you fall into a coma or are otherwise medically unable to run your affairs. The person you name in a power of attorney as your agent acts for you in those matters specified in the document. If you wish protection in case of a coma or other incapacity, be sure to create a durable power of attorney; regular powers of attorney become invalid if and when you become incapacitated. A power of attorney that does not become active until you are incapacitated is termed springing.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now

Financial and Medical

Most powers of attorney relate either to finances or to health decisions, and the American Bar Association recommends that you prepare a separate document for each. The person you name in a financial power of attorney pays your bills, manages your investments and collects rent and revenues for you while you are in a coma. The agent named in a durable power of attorney for health care makes medical decisions on your behalf, such as approving treatment, selecting doctors and authorizing continuation or withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment.

Timing

You must think ahead if you wish your agent to act for you if you fall into a coma or suffer other medical incapacity. Only someone of sound mind can execute a power of attorney, for obvious reasons. Once you are in a coma, it is impossible for you to select an agent, and even if you are slipping in and out of mental capacity, a court will invalidate your power of attorney if it appears that your mental faculties were impaired at the time of the choice.

Consequences

If you fall into a coma without having prepared a power of attorney, your spouse or family must go to court to get someone appointed to handle your finances or make your health care decisions. Not only is this a burden on family members in an already stressful time, but attorney fees and court costs can be expensive. This type of emergency can also open the door to family feuds and infighting, and you have no assurance that your most trusted advisor will be the person appointed. A power of attorney can provide inexpensive and invaluable protection.

Ready to appoint a power of attorney? Get Started Now
What Can Happen if You Don't Have a Power of Attorney?

References

Resources

Related articles

How to Obtain Power of Attorney

You may face circumstances that require you to perform legal acts, such as withdrawing money from a bank account or consenting to medical treatment, on behalf of another person, known as the principal, who cannot perform these acts himself due to disability or other adverse circumstance. A valid power of attorney will allow you to perform these acts as agent for the principal without legal liability. Hospitals and banks often offer standardized power of attorney forms that have been drafted in accordance with state law. Otherwise, you may draft the appropriate form yourself.

Medical Situations That Require a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

The ability to consent to or refuse medical treatment is a fundamental right afforded to you under the law. If you lose your ability to competently make decisions regarding your health, the burden and stresses involved in determining treatment options often falls to your family members or health care providers. Although not required, a properly drafted durable power of attorney for health care can ensure that you receive medical treatment in accordance with your wishes when you become unable or unwilling to make these decisions yourself.

What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Giving Someone Your Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to name someone you trust to make financial, business and legal decisions on your behalf. It provides a convenient means of having your affairs looked after when you are away or simply unable to do so on your own. The potential for abuse may outweigh the convenience of having an agent with a power of attorney.

Related articles

Guardianship Vs. Durable Power of Attorney

No one likes to consider the possibility of becoming physically or mentally incapacitated. However, guardianship and ...

Automatic Power of Attorney Due to Health

You can't assume that a spouse or family member will automatically be able to act in your stead if you become ...

Difference Between Living Will & Durable Power of Attorney

At some point, perhaps toward the end of your life, you may need help taking care of your finances, making medical ...

Types of Power of Attorney for Elderly Family Members

The health of an aging family member may determine the type of power of attorney she will agree to or is able to sign. ...

Browse by category