When thinking about estate planning, most people think of a will. However, estate planning is not limited to just wills or trusts. While those documents are very important to have, you should also start thinking about assigning power of attorney and drafting this document.
What is power of attorney?
While it is never fun to think about growing old and being unable to make certain decisions for yourself, it is important that you are prepared when the time comes. Power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to act on your behalf if you become incapable of doing so yourself.
Depending on how the document is drafted, power of attorney can be as broad or as specific as you want it to be. You can have a financial power of attorney, which would give someone the authority to make decisions regarding your finances. And there is also a medical power of attorney, which gives someone the right to make medical decisions on your behalf. You can give as much or as little control as you desire.
Why assign power of attorney?
In the unfortunate event that you become unable to make sound choices for yourself, you need someone who can legally make decisions on your behalf. It is important to have both a medical and a financial power of attorney. You can select two different people for these matters if you like.
The person you choose for medical power of attorney will make medical decisions, speak with doctors and ensure you are receiving proper health care. The person you choose for financial power of attorney can ensure that your bills are paid and that your investments and any transactions are properly handled.
In far too many cases, people neglect to assign powers of attorney, and family members are left with no guidance in making extremely difficult medical decisions, or family members find themselves legally unable to make financial decisions, including bill payments, on behalf of incapacaitated loved ones.
Who do I choose?
When assigning power of attorney, you want to choose someone you trust and respect to make important decisions for you. Your choice could be a family member, a trusted friend or a lawyer. It is also helpful to ask the people you are considering how they feel about being your power of attorney.
You want to consider their feelings and make sure they are up to the job. Some situations can call for difficult decisions, and you need know that the person you choose is the right person who will have your best interests -- and those of your family -- at heart.
An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you plan and draft your powers of attorney. An experienced estate planner can also help you identify how much authority to allow to the person you select.