Your Estate Plan Should Include Designating Power Of Attorney
Aging comes with numerous health issues and risks. But for many people, few are scarier than incapacity, which is the inability to make or communicate decisions for ourselves. This could be mental incapacity, such as developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or physical incapacity, like falling into a coma or having a stroke.
While most of us would prefer not to think about these kinds of scenarios, it is critical to plan for them through legal tools like power of attorney. As you create your estate plan with our lawyers at Jurist Law Group, PLLC, we can discuss the various powers of attorney (POA) scenarios and help you designate a trusted person to take on this important role, should the need ever arise.
What Does It Mean To Grant Power Of Attorney?
When you grant someone power of attorney, you are authorizing that person to act and make decisions on your behalf. These decisions are not trivial. They usually involve highly important matters related to money, property and health care. The person you designate is known as your “agent” or “attorney in fact.”
POA can be granted in very limited or very broad circumstances. In the context of elder law, we are almost always referring to POA that remains effective after someone loses capacity. This is known as “durable power of attorney,” and durable refers to the fact that the designation remains effective despite incapacity.
The Two Main Designations For Agents
Estate plans often include two types of POA designations. They include:
- Health care power of attorney: Giving someone the power to make decisions about your medical care and treatment ONLY if you cannot make or communicate those decisions yourself. Health care POA is often used in conjunction with a living will, which is a document stating your wishes for medical and end-of-life treatment. A health care POA is only effective if you can’t communicate your wishes. Otherwise your doctor will always communicate and seek your consent for your own health care decisions.
- Financial power of attorney: This authorizes your agent to make financial decisions and transactions on your behalf. A financial power of attorney is like a contract between you (the Master or “Principal”) and someone else (the Servant or “Agent”) to handle your affairs in accordance with your wishes. Depending on the details of the agreement, they may be able to do things like pay your bills, buy and sell property, manage your business and handle your taxes. You always have the final say and can Veto or Revoke any decisions made by your Agent.
There are forms you can fill out to designate power of attorney. But in light of how important this designation is, it is worth hiring an attorney to create custom documents and to ensure they will be deemed valid if someone ever tries to challenge them.
Choosing Power Of Attorney Can Prevent The Need For Guardianship
It can seem scary to turn over these important decisions to someone else, but designating durable power of attorney now gives you the most say over what happens if you become incapacitated. If there is no POA designation in place and you lose capacity, your family or others in your life would likely need to go through the expensive and stressful process of seeking guardianship.
The person ultimately appointed as guardian may not be the person you would have chosen. As with most things in life, it is considerably more practical and beneficial to plan ahead than to wait for an emergency.
Discuss Your Needs With Attorneys Who Listen And Care
At Jurist Law Group, PLLC, we understand that some aspects of estate planning can be emotionally difficult, and we are here to provide reassurance and support as well as legal services. To learn more about how our experienced and caring attorneys can help you, call our office in Little Rock, Arkansas, at 501-400-7355. You can also reach out online.