It is difficult to imagine being incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs. For this reason, many people put off estate planning and appointing a power of attorney. But if something does happen to you and you don’t have a power of attorney, your wishes may not be upheld. And, you could subject your family to preventable lawsuits and conflict.
A power of attorney is someone that you designate to make decisions on your behalf. You specify ahead of time when a power of attorney can make decisions for you, and what type of decisions they can make. Often, a power of attorney steps in:
The term “power of attorney” can create confusion. In this use of the word “attorney,” it simply means someone that you’ve designated to act on your behalf. The person you choose for this role can be anyone that you trust, often a relative or a close friend.
You should put some thought into choosing your power of attorney. You want someone who will follow your wishes and understands what you want. You also want someone who can cope with stressful situations and won’t bow down to pressure from others.
There are several different types of power of attorney. Each type has a different scope and area of decision-making.
If you are incapacitated, your medical power of attorney makes healthcare decisions for you. That could include pursuing or refusing certain treatments, surgery, and options for end-of-life care. Your medical power of attorney will also choose where you live if you need ongoing care, such as a skilled nursing facility.
A financial power of attorney has the authority to handle all aspects of your finances if you cannot. This person would be responsible for duties like paying your bills, accessing your bank accounts, purchasing insurance, and making investments.
Your medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney can be the same person, or you can appoint a different individual for each role.
“Durable power of attorney” is an umbrella term used to describe any power of attorney who will act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. State law requires that specific language must be used when designating a durable power of attorney. This language is set forth in Mass. Gen. Law Chapter 190B § 5-501. For many people, a durable power of attorney makes the most sense because incapacitation is exactly when you would need them to step in.
“Springing power of attorney” is another umbrella term. This type of power of attorney “springs” into effectiveness after a designated event, such as a future date or a specified circumstance.
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Many people first think about a power of attorney during a life change such as a divorce or a military deployment. The fact is, all adults should consider designating a power of attorney, no matter their age or health status. Planning ensures that your wishes are carried out and prevents the courts from stepping in. You may also find that a power of attorney is a wise choice if you believe that your next-of-kin would not make the same choices as you would.
Estate planning is complex. Most individuals will benefit from a lawyer’s expertise and experience. A power of attorney lawyer can help you:
When you’re ready to designate a power of attorney or just have questions, you’ll need to find the right lawyer.
Many estate planning law firms handle powers of attorney, but not all do it well. We have experience with both basic and complex situations. We’ll ask the right questions and look at your circumstances as a whole. Designating a power of attorney is one of the most important decisions you can make. We will guide you through the entire process so that you have peace of mind.
Contact us today to make sure your estate plan is complete.
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