While it’s unsettling to think about a time when you will no longer be able to make important financial, legal, or medical decisions, that day will inevitably arrive for everyone. Sometimes, that point is reached gradually and over time, but there are many instances when a person suddenly finds themselves without the capacity to make coherent decisions. In order to prepare yourself, your loved ones, and your business for this event, it’s essential that you meet with a trusted estate planning attorney who can help you put power of attorney (POA) documents in place that clearly express your wishes. Without a POA in place, you and your family may experience additional stress during an already challenging time. Let’s take a closer look at how POAs work and why it’s important for you to put them in place as soon as possible.
Understanding the Various Types of Power of Attorney (POA)
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document that designates a trusted individual of your choosing to make decisions or act on your behalf in the event that you are unable to do so. While there are a few different types of POA, two important ones are a medical POA (also called a health care proxy) and a general POA, who can take care of signing legal documents, managing your finances, and other important tasks. When you meet with your estate planning attorney, you can discuss the particular responsibilities you wish these individuals to have, as well as what conditions will trigger the activation of the POA. For instance, the medical POA will only need to step in when you are no longer medically able to make decisions, such as suffering a stroke or a prolonged loss of consciousness. Or, you could assign someone to serve as a limited POA, so that they can complete an important transaction, such a real estate purchase, without your physical presence. Your estate planning lawyer will work with you to understand your specific needs and goals so that you can put the necessary POAs in place where they will best serve you and your family’s best interests.
The Consequences of Not Having a POA in Place
First of all, it’s important to understand that you (and only you) can set up a POA ahead of time. Your family cannot suddenly decide to put a POA in place when you start forgetting things—a POA can only be created by the individual whom it will protect. If you are incapacitated before a POA is put in place, then the state court will likely step in to assign a guardian to oversee your affairs. In most cases, your family will not be able to have a say in who this guardian is, and the situation can quickly become stressful for your loved ones. In order to protect your loved ones and to ensure that your wishes are documented and respected, it’s vital that you work with your estate planning lawyer to put these POA documents in place before they are necessary.
Plan Ahead to Leave Your Loved Ones in Good Hands
It’s understandable it never feels like the “right time” to create an estate plan or to put a POA in place. Thinking about situations where you are incapacitated, unconscious, or otherwise unresponsive is unpleasant, but avoiding these thoughts altogether actually creates more stress for you and your family in the long run. So, take the time today to put trusted guardians in place who you know will honor and see to it that your wishes are upheld. Don’t leave these important decisions up to state courts or guardians who are unfamiliar with you and your family. Give your loved ones the support and stability they need when the time eventually arrives.
To learn more about how a power of attorney can help you achieve your estate planning goals, reach out to the dedicated estate planning team at Legacy Law Group by calling (509) 315-8087 today.