Durable Financial and Medical Powers of Attorney are documents that allow someone else to act on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your preferences with regard to your medical care, or need someone else to handle your financial affairs now or in the future. Having valid durable financial and medical powers of attorney makes it unlikely your family will need to petition the probate court to have a guardian and/or conservator appointed if you become unable to act on your own behalf because of injury or illness.
A Durable Financial Power of Attorney is a document in which you appoint and authorize an agent to act for you on your financial behalf. It authorizes your agent to perform almost any financial act that you could perform, such as opening and closing bank or brokerage accounts, signing checks, and executing deeds, contracts, and other documents. Since a durable financial power of attorney gives your agent the immediate ability to take control of your assets and finances, do not create this document unless you have absolute trust in your named agent. Although your agent is required to act only in your best interests, it is always better to prevent the misappropriation or mishandling of your assets than try to undo the damage after the fact.
A Patient Advocate Designation or Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint another person as your advocate to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to communicate your own health care decisions in the future. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court case Cruzan v. Missouri Dept of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990), our legislature enacted MCL §700.5506–.5520 giving individuals the power to make a patient advocate designation. The law also provides that a patient advocate may make a decision to withhold or withdraw treatment that would allow a patient to die only if the patient has expressed in a clear and convincing manner that the patient advocate is authorized to make such a decision, and that the patient acknowledges that such a decision could or would allow the patient’s death.
In my experience, most clients do not wish to be kept alive at all costs if death is imminent. However if they have not prepared a Designation of Patient Advocate and clearly and convincingly stated that they authorize their patient advocate to withhold or withdraw treatment which could allow their death, they may not have their wishes for a dignified death under their own terms fulfilled.