It’s hard to think about the possibility of losing the ability to make your own decisions. It’s heartbreaking to see your family members lose that ability. It’s even harder if you literally can’t do anything to help them, like canceling their cable bill or paying their electricity bills because you do not have legal authority to do so.
This is a frightening thought, and it is one that people sometimes avoid thinking about until it is actually needed. Creating a plan now will save your family a lot of difficulty later on.
Appointing a power of attorney is one of the building blocks of a good estate plan. It provides the authority to a trusted individual to act in your best interest when you can’t. Here are some of the situations when it’s helpful to have someone to act for you:
You are aging or have a chronic illness. When you age or suffer from a chronic illness, the practical details of managing your daily life can become overwhelming. In this situation, you can set up a ‘general power of attorney.’ It gives authority to your ‘agent’ to sign your documents for you, pay your bills, and manage your bank account among other things.
You will be unable to take care of your affairs for a short period of time. If you are out of the country, or have had an operation and are unable to take care of your affairs immediately, you can set up a type of power of attorney called a ‘limited power of attorney.’ This can be for a short period of time, and sometimes can be as broad or narrow as you need.
You become physically or mentally incapable to take care of yourself. In the event that you are physically or mentally unable to take care of your affairs, you can give permanent legal authority to someone to take care of your affairs for you. They also make decisions for you. This is called a ‘durable power of attorney’ and is permanent. It will remain in place until you die, unless you change it. This is normally for financial decisions, but can include decisions about your daily care and your medical care.
Anyone over the age of 16 can set up a power of attorney, but people often wait until it’s too late. You can grant power of attorney to anyone you choose, a family member, a lawyer, even an organization. Because they are taking on such a huge responsibility for you, it is crucial that the person is someone you trust, and who can be trusted to act in your best interest.
Thinking about getting a power of attorney? An estate planning attorney can help you understand your options and which type of power of attorney is right for you.
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