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Powers of Attorney

Comprehensive estate planning normally includes drafting one or more more Powers of Attorney, and a Nomination of Conservator and Guardian.  In addition, if you wish to leave instructions as to your end-of-life wishes, it includes a Living Will.  If you have a minor child or children, the documents can include Powers of Attorney regarding those children.  Below is a brief description of these different types of documents.  Which of these documents I draft depends on your wishes.

A Power of Attorney is a notarized (and sometimes also witnessed) document that gives another person (your "attorney-in-fact" or "agent") the power and authority to act in your behalf.   A "durable" power of attorney is one that continues to remain in effect after you become incapacitated.  If a Power of Attorney is not "durable," then it lapses as soon as you become incapacitated.

There is no court supervision over a person named in a Power of Attorney.  Therefore, it is extremely important that. if you want to sign a Power of Attorney, you choose your agent carefully, and name only someone who is honest and trustworthy, and who always will have your best interests at heart.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care:  This names the person or persons whom you authorize and empower to make health care decisions for you when you are no longer able to make or express your own wishes regarding your health care.  (Your agent cannot make medical decisions for you whenever you are able to make your own decisions.)   If you wish, a Health Care Power of Attorney can authorize another person to have access to medical information about you, even before you are incapacitated.   (Once you are incapacitated and unable to make your own decision, your Health Care agent has right of access to medical information about you.)

Living Will: This states your wishes as to end-of-life care.  (A Living Will sometimes is also called a Health Care Directive.)

Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs: This empowers a person or persons to handle financial affairs for you, effective either as soon as you sign the document, or only when you become incapacitated. 

A Durable Power of Attorney with General Powers for All Purposes authorizes another to handle all of your financial affairs.

A Durable Power of Attorney that is not a General Power of Attorney limits the matters over which the attorney-in-fact has authority, and/or limits the time period that it is in effect (for example, when you will be out of town).

A Durable Power of Attorney pertaining to financial affairs can provide that it goes into effect as soon as you sign the power of attorney, or only after one or more doctors determine that you are unable to handle your financial affairs.

Durable Power of Attorney with Right of Sepulcher:  This designates the person(s) you want to handle arrangements regarding your body after your death (allowing or prohibiting organ  donation, burial, cremation).  If you do not sign such a document, then Missouri law provides that the following persons have priority in handling disposition: 1) your spouse, 2) your children, 3) your parents, and 4) your siblings. 
If you want to name someone besides a relative to handle your disposition after your death, it is critical that you sign a Sepulcher Power of Attorney.  Due to a 2013 Missouri appeals court decision, including sepulcher powers in a Health Care Power of Attorney might not be enforceable without special wording.  It also important that you state whether or not you authorize or prohibit organ donation, or an autopsy. If you make no statements regarding organ donation, then the person handling your arrangements can decide to make organ donations.
Powers of Attorney Regarding Minor Children: This is a Power of Attorney that gives another person the authority to make medical decisions for your child(ren), while stating that you are not relinquishing your parental rights and authority also to make such decisions.  The Power of Attorney either can be in effect immediately upon signing, or can provide that the person designated can make medical decisions for your child(ren) only when you are incapacitated.  It also can authorizes doctors to release medical information about the child(ren) to that person.  This is an important document if you are raising your child(ren) with another person who is not the child(ren)'s legally-recognized parent.  It also is useful for those situation when your children will be traveling with another person who is not a parent.   

Nomination of Conservator and Guardian: This document states the names of the person(s) whom you would want the probate court to appoint as your conservator to manage your financial affairs or as your guardian to make health and personal welfare decisions for you, if the judge finds that you are disabled or incapacitated.  If you have a child or children, the Nomination also can include naming the person(s) you would want to act as guardian and/or conservator for your child(ren) if you are incapacitated. A court-appointed Conservator or Guardian remains under the supervision of the Probate Court.

To be effective in Missouri, each of these documents must comply with certain technical requirements of the law.