A client can appoint a person (agent) to assist in the handling of his affairs if he becomes incapable of handling them himself, or if the client finds himself unavailable for whatever reason. A client has the ability to name an agent to be "in charge" under a variety of circumstances. Typically, separate documents are prepared for medical matters and financial matters. A client may name his first choice, and often a back-up choice, to be responsible for various personal affairs.

Financial powers of attorney obviously cover a variety of financial matters. They can be very specific - to deal with only one specific transaction or subject, for instance, the closing on the sale of a house. Or they can be comprehensive - allowing the agent to handle whatever financial matters the client could do himself if he were able and available. Financial powers of attorney are extremely powerful documents, and care must be taken to ensure they are used properly.

A medical power of attorney similarly appoints an agent to make medical decisions for a client who cannot make such decisions himself because he is recovering from surgery and a long hospital stay, is unconscious as a result of an accident and treatment decisions need to be made, or because he suffers from long term dementia or other medical condition which prevents him from evaluating and making medical decisions on his own behalf. Medical powers of attorney can cover a variety of medical issues - from emergency treatment decisions, to surgery choices, to nursing home care, to hospice care. Clients may desire to include their wishes for treatment under a variety of circumstances. Medical powers of attorney also include a listing of persons authorized to receive medical information about the client, for instance, to whom the hospital or doctors may release information about the person's condition and treatment.