Mar 23, 2011

What to Do with Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive?

courthouse.jpgDear Liza: I created the Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive (Living Will and Power of Attorney) documents using Quicken WillMaker software.  I recognize that I at least need to have them signed/notorized by the parties identified in the documents.  Now what do I do? Am I required to register these or send these documents to a local authority to make them "official"?  I'm sure it's more than just having them saved in my safe deposit box.  So, guess what? Actually you generally DON'T record these documents or register them with any state authority. The only time I've ever done so is when a client needs to sign a property deed using their authority as an Agent under a Power of Attorney--in that case, you need to record the Power of Attorney in the same county as you've recorded that deed. But, otherwise, you can give a copy of your Health Care Directive to your doctor and a copy of your Power of Attorney to your bank (if they'll accept it). You definitely should make sure that your named Agents have copies. These documents, which give a third party the power to act on your behalf if you're unable to do so, are generally simply used when needed. If your Agent for Property, for example, needs to transfer money from your bank account, they'd take the Power of Attorney to the bank at that time and get the job done; if your Agent for Health Care needs to make medical decisions for you, they'll need to show the Health Care Directive to the hospital or doctors in charge of your care. I do know of two states that require a Durable Power of Attorney to be recorded to be valid upon your subsequent incapacity: North and South Carolina, but unless you live there, these documents do not need to registered to be 'official," just properly signed and notarized (or witnessed, depending upon your state's rules.) Nolo does a really great job at keeping up with the rules in all 50 states, so I'd also check WillMaker's help section to see if it has specific rules for your state.