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What is a Springing Power of Attorney? 

A springing power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that enables one to appoint an agent to make decisions about finances, healthcare, and certain other important matters on one’s behalf upon the occurrence of certain events. Unlike a regular POA, which takes effect immediately upon signing, a springing POA remains inactive until a specific event or condition occurs, as stipulated in the document itself.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Unlike a regular power of attorney, which takes effect immediately, a springing power of attorney only takes effect after certain triggering event(s) occur. 
  • Common triggering events include medical incapacitation, cognitive decline, coma, or other situations as defined in the document.
  • Springing powers of attorney are often preferable to regular powers of attorney for incapacity planning because they allow one to retain control over one's affairs until one becomes incapacitated.

Springing POA vs. Regular POA

The key difference between a springing power of attorney and a regular power of attorney lies in when they become effective. A springing power of attorney only grants authority to the agent after a specific triggering event occurs, usually a decline in the principal's mental capacity, and until that trigger occurs, the principal retains control over their decisions. In contrast, a regular power of attorney becomes effective immediately upon signing, allowing the agent to make decisions and take actions as outlined in the POA without the need for the occurrence of any further event.

Benefits of a Springing Power of Attorney:

A springing POA offers several significant advantages. It provides peace of mind, ensuring that the principal's wishes will be respected and their affairs handled by a trusted individual if they become incapacitated. It also avoids delays and disputes by preventing family members from petitioning for guardianship, which can be time-consuming, expensive, and lead to disagreements. 

Furthermore, a springing POA ensures continuity of care by allowing healthcare decisions to be made promptly and in accordance with the principal's wishes, even if they cannot communicate them. It also protects the principal's assets by enabling the agent to manage their finances and ensure their financial well-being is looked after during incapacitation. Lastly, it empowers the principal to choose a trusted individual who understands their wishes and values to make decisions on their behalf, maintaining some control over their life.

When Does a Springing POA Take Effect? 

As mentioned above, a springing power of attorney remains inactive until a specific triggering event occurs. Some common situations that can trigger a springing power of attorney include:

  • Medical Incapacitation: This is the most common trigger and refers to a situation where one is no longer to understand or communicate their medical wishes due to illness, injury, or surgery. For example, if someone falls into a coma, or is suffering from a severe infection that affects their mental clarity, the POA would spring into action.
  • Cognitive Decline: This can be caused by conditions like dementia or Alzheimer's disease, which gradually impair one’s ability to make sound decisions about their finances, healthcare, or personal well-being. In such cases, a doctor's evaluation or a cognitive assessment may be used to determine if they have reached the point where the springing POA should be activated.
  • Other Defined Situations: One can also specify additional triggers in their springing POA document. These might include situations like a specific medical diagnosis, a move to a nursing home, or the inability to perform daily living activities due to physical limitations.

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