No one wants to think about a future, where they are unable to make decisions for themselves. No one wants to think about other people watching them incompetent and unable to decide for yourself how to proceed with your care, or what steps need to be taken, regarding your finances.
The emotions of making decisions regarding that possibility often cloud your willingness to create documents for that very scenario. However, as you get older, creating those very documents becomes an essential aspect in having a comprehensive estate plan in place.
By exploring the possibility of an uncertain future, you are giving yourself security if that future ever comes. You are ensuring that you and your family are ready.
That requires the assistance of an elder law attorney, who can craft estate planning documents that reflect your wishes. These documents also can grant decision-making capabilities to those that you trust to make decisions on your behalf. This is possible with a Power of Attorney.
What is it?
A Power of Attorney allows a person you appoint, your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” to act in place of you, the “principal,” for financial purposes when and if you ever become incapacitated.
This individual will be able to step in and take care of your financial affairs through the use of a Power of Attorney. Without one, no one will be representing you, if you find yourself incompetent, unless a court appoints a conservator or guardian.
This appointment would take time, money, and effort, preventing immediate action from taking place. In cases of medical or financial emergency, this could be a costly inhabitance.
There are different types of Powers of Attorney. A limited Power of Attorney could grant someone the ability to sign a deed to a property on a day, in which you are out of town, or sign a check on your behalf. Whereas, a general Power of Attorney gives your attorney-in-fact all of the powers and rights you have, regarding your person.
A Power of Attorney can be current or “springing,” meaning they do not become effective until you become incapacitated. This requires the standard of incapacity to be defined in the documents.
Beyond a traditionally limited Power of Attorney, is a durable Power of Attorney which seamlessly remains in effect if, you become physically or mentally incapacitated.
Helping your loved ones
A Power of Attorney can assist your trusted loved one, who has been given decision-making abilities regarding your health care or financial matters, the ability to save your life. With a health care Power of Attorney in place, your agent has the ability to make immediate decisions regarding your medical care, in situations where you may not be able to.
This requires both carefully choosing trusted loved ones who would have the capability of making such decisions and having the hard conversations with them.
You can choose to separate your agents, by having one person capable of making medical decisions and one person capable of making financial decisions. However, if you are not having these challenging conversations with your loved ones, they will not be equipped with the knowledge necessary to make decisions that reflect your wishes. You would be forcing them to play a guessing game, leaving them in a state of always wondering if they made the right decision.
Instead of making them guess, you need to be able to communicate with them and communicate with your elder law attorney, regarding what you want, should issues arise that leave you unable to make these decisions for yourself.
If you ever decide that changes need to be made to your estate planning documents, including your Power of Attorney, your elder law attorney needs to be part of the process. They need to be the ones redrafting them, in order to reflect your new wishes.
With your future at stake, you need to ensure that your loved ones are given all of the tools to make an informed decision, on your behalf. A Power of Attorney is a necessary component to a comprehensive estate plan and allows decisions that affect you, to be made with expedience and by those you trust.