It’s easy to get lost in the semantics of the various legal documents associated with estate planning. Part of the problem has always been the many names for the same documents. Each state has its own guidelines and names, but regardless of what it’s called, a durable power of attorney for health care is an important document that should be a part of everyone’s estate plan.
Don’t assume you won’t need this until you’re older. You never know when an accident or illness will affect your ability to verbalize or otherwise communicate your healthcare wishes, or for that matter, your financial affairs. These documents ensure your voice is heard – and your wishes are adhered to should that ever happen.
A power of attorney is simply a legal document that allows you to select someone to act on your behalf should you be unable to communicate. A durable power of attorney ensures your agent speaks for you should you become mentally incapacitated. This person will have direct contact with healthcare providers and will be the one to ensure you receive the health care treatments you wish – and perhaps, ensure extraordinary measures aren’t taken that you don’t want. A living will can go hand in hand with your durable power of attorney. Remember too that your agent is legally bound to follow your instructions based on what he or she knows.
Strange as it may sound, you should carefully consider selecting someone who will be able to put those wheels in motion versus someone who will struggle with the emotions of making those choices. Many opt to name someone who isn’t their spouse or even a parent simply because they don’t want to place that burden on their shoulders. Often, they choose a sibling or someone else they’re close to, but who can also serve the role.
Many people say they don’t have time to put those documents into place, but the reality is, your estate planning lawyer can put the wheels in motion with you coming by to sign the authorizations. The alternative can be an even bigger burden on loved ones if there’s not a document in place. It’s not unheard of for family members to end up in court because they disagree over what medical decisions should be instituted. The durable power of attorney for health care eliminates those dynamics entirely.
Also, it’s important to understand that a financial power of attorney will serve only those financial decisions you would make. The medical power of attorney is far different. Some people prefer to name the same person for both, but for many, they feel the person who is best at making financial decisions might not be the one right to make the hard choices when it comes to health care. While this topic is focused on healthcare decisions, the financial power of attorney shouldn’t be underestimated.
If you’d like to learn more about these important legal documents, we invite you to contact our office today. We’re happy to explore the options you have so that you can make the best legal decisions for you and your family’s needs.