Power of Attorney is a legal status you may grant to someone else that allows that person to make decisions and engage in transactions on your behalf. The broad power of attorney that most people use is called a General Durable Power of Attorney, which is a standard grant of power controlled by statute. This power must be granted in writing and detail specifically which powers the grantee has to control your affairs, which means you can put limitations on the power of attorney to cover specific transactions or duties. For example, it is possible to execute a power of attorney for only selling real estate, which sometimes occurs between separated or divorced spouses when the other spouse moves away and can’t (or won’t) attend the closing.
Power of Attorney is most often granted between family members for elderly parents that may be losing their ability to take care of their own affairs, or it may be that your child is going to serve abroad in the military and you need power of attorney to take care of their personal business while they are gone. No matter what your reason is, it is important to remember that the grantor (person giving away the power) must be of sound mind to sign the document, so if you are concerned about an elderly relative you should probably go ahead and get power of attorney over them before they become mentally incompetent to grant you that power. You can still get control of their affairs but you would have to have a hearing with medical proof in probate court that they are indeed mentally incompetent, it is in their best interest to give you power over their affairs, and that you are the best person to have such powers.
There is also a Health Care Power of Attorney that is designed specifically for health care decisions. This grants the grantee the authority to make any and all decisions related to your medical care, but it is much broader than a Living Will, which only covers the end-of-life decision. Granting another family member power of attorney over your health care decisions can make medical decisions much easier on them and your doctors when there is a question of consent or necessity for a procedure and you are unable to decide for yourself.