What is a Power of Attorney?

What is a Power of Attorney and Why Do I Need One?


Navigating life's unexpected challenges can be difficult, particularly when handling crucial personal affairs. In these unforeseen moments, the significance of a Power of Attorney (POA) cannot be overstated. Establishing a POA provides a formal way to safeguard your interests and alleviate potential burdens on your loved ones while shielding them from undue obstacles.  

What is a Power of Attorney?  

The term Power of Attorney, also known as a POA, refers to a legal document that gives another person (the “Agent”) the ability to make health care or financial/property decisions on your behalf if you (the “Principal”) become incapacitated or unable to make decisions on your own. 

Who can be my Agent? 

Your Agent can be a family member, friend, or other person who is: 

  • Over the age of 18, 
  • Able to make his or her own decisions, 
  • Knows you well, 
  • You have confidence that this person will act in your best interests and follow through with your wishes, even if they may not personally agree with them, 
  • Willing to be there for you and is open to taking on this important role. 

What are the different types of Power of Attorney?  

There are several types of power of attorney, each serving a specific purpose. However, the two most common types include POA for Healthcare and POA for Property.  

A POA for healthcare is a document that grants the agent the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal in case they are unable to do so.  

A POA for property is a legal document that allows an agent to manage financial and legal matters on the principal's behalf. This may include handling banking transactions, managing investments, paying bills, buying, or selling real estate, and making legal decisions related to financial matters. 

Find additional POA resources below.

What does the Power of Attorney process look like? 

The power of attorney process involves:  

  1. Choosing an agent: Selecting a trustworthy individual to act on your behalf.
  2. Drafting the document: Outlining the specific powers and conditions of the POA. 
  3. Signing and notarizing: Executing the document in compliance with legal requirements. 
  4. Distributing copies: Providing copies to relevant parties, such as your Agent, your bank, your primary care physician and anyone other than your regular doctor.

Why are Powers of Attorney important?  

A Power of Attorney provides individuals with peace of mind and authority when faced with the unexpected. Once a POA is set in motion, the chosen agent assumes the responsibility of making medical and financial decisions in accordance with the principal's wishes. Without careful planning, these difficult decisions could be entrusted to family members, friends, or the state. 

Can NSLAC help me set up a Power of Attorney? 

Yes, North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic offers year-round POA clinics at surrounding community senior centers, public libraries, and community colleges. Our attorneys provide free legal assistance in drafting and notarizing POAs for health care and property management to community members living in north suburban Cook County, IL, or Lake County, IL. You can find upcoming POA clinics HERE or by calling 847 737-4042. NSLAC also offers free legal services in the areas of immigration, housing, and domestic violence. 

POA Resources:

ILAO POA Health Care Easy Form: This program will help you prepare your POA for healthcare documents. At the end of the program, you will get a completed set of POA for healthcare documents with instructions that you can save and print.

ILAO POA Property Easy Form: This program will help you prepare your POA for property documents. At the end of the program, you will get a completed set of POA for property documents with instructions that you can save and print.

The information in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed between NSLAC and the reader. NSLAC is not liable for any action taken or not taken based on this blog. Readers should contact an attorney with any questions regarding the content.

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