Benefits of a Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation

Senior Asian couple signing estate planning document to establish their durable power of attorneys and patient advocate designations.

Unfortunately, circumstances involving illnesses or accidents may arise in your life causing you to be unable to make decisions about your financial matters and your medical treatment. Michigan law provides an opportunity to address such circumstances so that a trusted family member or friend can assist you with decision making. Since that point in time may come when you are incapable of making your own decisions, it is highly recommended to obtain a financial and property Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation when you are capable of making decisions and have the mental capacity to understand what you are signing.

Both documents are inexpensive documents that can not only avoid time and expense for your loved ones, but also provide specific instructions about how you want your property and finances managed and specific instructions about medical and mental health care that you may or may not want.

What is a Financial and Property Power of Attorney?

A financial and property power of attorney is an important estate planning document that gives a trusted person the permission and authority to act on your behalf in property and financial matters.

The power of attorney (POA) can be a “durable” POA, which means that the power for the person to act on your behalf goes into effect when you sign the document and then continues in effect when you become incapacitated. Alternatively, the POA can be “springing” and only go into effect when you become incapacitated. Typically, a springing power of attorney requires a licensed physician to verify your incapacity in writing for the powers to take effect.

A POA can be tailored to your needs and the complexities of your life. Under a general POA, you grant a trusted person the right to conduct any financial, business, real estate, and legal transactions on your behalf. Under a limited POA, the appointed person is authorized to perform certain financial and business acts and make some decisions but not others. A special POA is the narrowest in scope, limiting the appointed person’s authority to only that specified in the document. The scope of a POA’s authority you grant is up to you. A POA can also be rescinded at any time you are competent.

Because the authority that is given can include access to your bank accounts and other assets, the person you nominate to serve in this position should be a trusted person. In a typical situation, a person will nominate their spouse or close friend to serve as their “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”, followed by their children or another family member. However, you are not limited to whom you appoint to serve in this role.

In the absence of a Power of Attorney, should you become incapacitated and incapable of managing your property and financial affairs, someone may be required to file a petition with the probate court and request the judge to appoint a conservator who would manage your property and finances.

What is a Patient Advocate Designation?

A patient advocate designation, sometimes referred to as a “Power of Attorney for Health Care”, is an important document in which you designate a trusted person to be your “patient advocate” in the event you lose the mental capacity to make healthcare decisions for yourself. While a spouse or child will sometimes have a say in your care if you are incapacitated, even close family members do not have a legal right to make certain medical decisions, such as involving end-of-life care, without having the proper patient advocate designation. Without the appropriate paperwork, your family may need to file proceedings in probate court to appoint a guardian.

When you choose a patient advocate, the person you designate can be empowered to make medical and or mental health care decisions on your behalf if you are injured or ill, and lack the mental capacity to make decisions for yourself. This includes consenting to medical treatment, refusing medical treatment, arranging for care in a hospital or nursing home and instructions about whether you want your organs donated or not. You can also empower your patient advocate to make decisions about mental health treatment, arrange for organ donation, and whether to withdraw or withhold life support in certain cases.

Benefits of a Power of Attorney for You and Your Family

A financial and property Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designation are useful and inexpensive tools to plan for future incapacity and can give you and your family peace of mind. These estate planning tools are not just for older adults or people with life-threatening illnesses. These documents are important for everyone and can also be made part of a more comprehensive estate plan that may include a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust.

In addition, not all Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations need to be the same. They can be tailored to your needs and the complexities of your life. These documents can also help to avoid family conflict and the time and expenses of probate court involvement should you become incapacitated.

You should also talk to the person who you want to designate to make these decisions on your behalf before signing the documents. That way you will make sure they are willing to take on the responsibilities to make decisions on your behalf and have knowledge of any specific instructions. In addition, you will want to let your family and loved ones know about these documents and where to find them in an emergency.

Although there are many forms available for Powers of Attorney and Patient Advocate Designations, you should understand that a form may not be a substitute for consulting with an attorney. Customized drafting ensures that issues important to you are addressed, and a skilled attorney can help you identify issues you may not have considered.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Estate Planning Attorney Bill Ager

At Ager Law Office, Bill Ager helps individuals and families with all aspects of estate planning, including Property and Financial Durable Powers of Attorney, Patient Advocate Designations, Wills and Trusts. From his Ann Arbor office, Bill Ager serves clients throughout Washtenaw County. To schedule a free consultation for a basic or comprehensive estate plan, or for updating your existing plan, call (734) 649-0784, send an email to, or use the online contact form on this website.

Categories: Estate Planning