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A power of attorney is an essential part of any estate plan in Maryland. It enables a designated entity or person to act on another person's behalf in the event the other person becomes incapacitated. The power of attorney document specifically gives the designated party the ability to make medical treatment-related and/or financial decisions for the incapacitated person.

However, if a person cannot competently act due to a mental disability caused by dementia or a stroke, for instance, a traditional power of attorney is not effective. This is true because the agent -- the party authorized to make decisions for the person -- draws his/her power from this person, so when the person is legally unable to act, the agent also cannot act. This is why a durable power of attorney can come in handy.

A durable power of attorney essentially endures even after a person has become mentally disabled. This ultimately helps to avoid the need for a court to appoint and direct a guardian if a person becomes mentally disabled. It is possible for this document to be written in such a way as to only be effective in the event of a disability, based on the opinion of a certain physician or a panel of doctors. It is important to address in the document the procedure for determining both mental and physical incapacity.

Although a durable power of attorney in Maryland can be helpful for people of all ages, it is especially critical for the elderly. It is wise to create this document at the same time one sets up a will. Proper legal guidance may help people to efficiently create a comprehensive durable power of attorney that meets their unique needs.

Source: The Huffington Post, "A Legal Introduction to the Durable Power of Attorney", Brad Reid, Oct. 5, 2015

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