Financial Powers of Attorney

What is the Difference Between Medical and Durable Power of Attorney?

by Rania Combs

A durable power of attorney is a written document that creates an agency relationship between the person granting authority and an agent, or attorney-in-fact, the person to whom authority is granted.

By signing a durable power of attorney, you authorize another person to engage in specified business, financial and legal transactions on your behalf. It is called “durable” because it does not terminate if you become disabled or incapacitated.

A medical power of attorney, on the other hand, is a document that allows you to designate a trusted family member or friend to make medical decisions for you in the event you become unconscious or mentally incapable of making those decisions for yourself.

The person you designate to make medical decisions for you is called an agent. The agent is given broad authority to make any health care decisions you could have made if you were not incapacitated, unless you specifically restrict his or her authority.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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  1. Raj

    December 17, 2017 at 8:13pm

    Is the durable power of attorney all encompassing to include medical power of attorney or are both executed separately?

    1. Rania Combs

      December 19, 2017 at 10:19pm

      A durable power of attorney appoints an agent to handle financial affairs. A medical power of attorney appoints an agent to make medical decisions during incapacity.

  2. Sheila thomsen

    February 10, 2018 at 1:13am

    So we would need both forms dual and medical to have it all correct? Also do u still need to have a will

    1. Rania Combs

      February 23, 2018 at 7:13pm

      Yes. A Will directs how your property will be distributed after you die. Power of attorney expire when you die.

  3. Laurie Hoffman

    February 17, 2018 at 7:14pm

    Can a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney be used even if the person has not become incapacitated?

    1. Rania Combs

      February 23, 2018 at 6:56pm

      The answer depends on how the power of attorney is written. A springing power of attorney springs into effect only in the principal’s incapacity; however, a power of attorney can be written to go into effect immediately.

  4. Kate

    February 20, 2018 at 5:27pm

    Rania, Your reply to Raj makes me wonder how the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is different than an Advanced Directive for Health Care.
    The ADHC states what you want at the end of life, and appoints an agent to make those decisions if you can not speak for yourself.
    I thought the DPAHC would include the ability to talk to doctors/medical staff and read/transfer medical records/notes if the person is not able to (say, because of age and confusion). In other words, I thought it was more than an “end of life” document.

    1. Rania Combs

      February 23, 2018 at 6:51pm

      The Directive to Physicians allows you to specify what kind of life-sustaining treatment should be administered or withheld if you are diagnosed with an irreversible or terminal condition. The Medical Power of Attorney authorizes your agent to make any and all health care decisions for you; but you can require the agent to direct a physician to comply with an executed Directive to Physicians so that your end-of-life wishes can honored.

  5. Delores

    March 17, 2018 at 9:21am

    My mother has dementia. I only have a notarized Power of Attorney over her and she has been living with me since 2011. Should I get a Medical and Durable Documents? Thanks for your reply.

    1. Rania Combs

      March 23, 2018 at 9:13am

      Please consult with an attorney in your community to determine whether your mother has the capacity to sign legal documents. I recommend the following documents for all: The Five Basic Documents Every Texan Needs.

  6. Cindee Bury

    March 26, 2018 at 8:05pm

    I have medical POA for my father, but not financial. He has dementia but not enough advanced to keep him from making his own finical decisions. As such am I responsible for his medical bills?

    1. Rania Combs

      April 9, 2018 at 10:20am

      Generally, as long as an agent is not a party to the debt, the agent is not personally liable for the debts of the principal. The principal is responsible for his or her own debt.

  7. Sheila

    May 24, 2018 at 2:08am

    Can a durable power of attorney override the decision of medical power of attorney?

    1. Rania Combs

      May 29, 2018 at 12:34pm


  8. Maria

    August 14, 2018 at 5:26pm

    Regarding durable POA; it does not terminate if you become disabled or incapacitated. When does it terminate?

    1. Rania Combs

      August 14, 2018 at 6:01pm

      The power of attorney terminates when the principal revokes the power of attorney or dies.

  9. Brenda

    August 23, 2018 at 10:04pm

    What do you need for someone to be able to handle financial and medical decisions before and after you die? I understand the Durable Power of Attorney ends when you die. Who would pay the bills after you die such as funeral expenses?

    1. Rania Combs

      August 28, 2018 at 9:53am

      An executor is responsible for making sure that a deceased person’s debts are paid, and that any remaining money or property is distributed according to the deceased person’s wishes.

  10. martha davis

    August 25, 2018 at 4:52pm

    I am confused. Can I have a Medical advanced directive to carry end of life issues/treatment and as well as a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney to carry out all my medical and health care decisions (not listed in my living will)?

    1. Rania Combs

      August 28, 2018 at 9:43am


  11. Dorothy Bagwill

    September 9, 2018 at 2:22pm

    Does the POA Medical mean that the person designated is responsible for any medical bills after death?

    1. Rania Combs

      September 10, 2018 at 10:22am

      An agent under a medical power of attorney is not responsible for the debt of the principal unless the agent is a party to the debt.

  12. Robert

    September 25, 2018 at 12:08pm

    I have medical POA for my uncle who now is incapicitated. How do I get financial POA in order to act in his behalf for financial actions?

    1. Rania Combs

      September 27, 2018 at 12:00pm

      The following article may answer your question: Sign a Durable Power of Attorney before its too Late.

  13. Lori

    December 28, 2018 at 6:15am

    I have durable power of attorney over my mother. Am I able to make medical decisions for her with that? Or can the state step in and take guardianship over her because I don’t have healthcare power of attorney?

    1. Rania Combs

      January 2, 2019 at 5:19pm

      A medical power of attorney would allow your mother to appoint an agent to make medical decisions on her behalf if she is incapacitated. Additionally, Section 313.004 of the Health and Safety Code addresses who can make medical decisions for an individual if there is not power of attorney: Can Someone Make Medical Decisions for Me If I Do Not Have a Medical Power of Attorney?

  14. Amanda

    January 16, 2019 at 10:55am

    Can a medical power of attorney be in effect before the individual becomes incapacitated?

    1. Rania Combs

      January 16, 2019 at 11:11am

      Medical powers of attorney are typically signed before an individual becomes incapacitated.

  15. Kayla

    January 30, 2019 at 12:33am

    For a child who has turned 18 and leaves for college, what documents do I need if something happens and the child ends up in the hospital and can’t make their own decisions so that I can help make decisions for their care.

    1. Rania Combs

      January 30, 2019 at 10:24am

      The following article may answer your questions: Estate Planning for College Students.

  16. CC

    February 17, 2019 at 12:40pm

    What is the definition of incapacitated? Would someone deemed mentally ill be considered incapacitated? I have guardianship and medical and financial power of attorney. This person is refusing any medical treatment for a serious illness and I’m wondering if there is any way to override this and get the attention they need?

    1. Rania Combs

      February 19, 2019 at 12:58pm

      According to Section Sec. 1002.017 of the Texas Estates Code, an “Incapacitated person” means:
      (1) a minor;
      (2) an adult who, because of a physical or mental condition, is substantially unable to:

        (A) provide food, clothing, or shelter for himself or herself;
        (B) care for the person’s own physical health; or

        (C) manage the person’s own financial affairs; or

      (3) a person who must have a guardian appointed for the person to receive funds due the person from a governmental source.

  17. Lisa

    March 14, 2019 at 2:43pm

    What’s all needed to get a medical power of attorney for parents. Thank you Lisa

    1. Rania Combs

      April 24, 2019 at 5:06pm

      An estate planning attorney will be able to assist you and explain the documents an options to you.