Planning your estate is something that far too many people put off until they have to retire or deal with a dire medical diagnosis. It’s always ideal to have a plan in place well before you need it, because life often defies prediction. Thankfully, it’s never too late to put some consideration into the many issues that could face your loved ones if you become incapacitated.
There are many situations that could result in the need for a power of attorney. One of them could be if you and your spouse end up injured in the same accident, leaving your spouse unable to make decisions on your behalf. If you have cancer or another serious condition, you could end up in a coma or on life support, unable to communicate your wishes and needs. Designating someone to handle your affairs with a limited or special power of attorney is a wise choice.
You should choose someone you trust to follow your wishes
The best way to handle the creation of a power of attorney is to have a very specific document drawn up that outlines exactly what authority you want the other person to have on your behalf. For example, you could assign financial power of attorney to a sibling, child, grandchild or close friend, but choose to only allow that person access to one specific account for paying bills and handling similar matters.
If you create a medical power of attorney, which allows someone else to make decisions about your treatment when you cannot, you should also take the time to outline your preferences and be careful to name someone you trust to follow them. How do you feel about life support? Do you hope to be an organ donor, if possible? If you have a terminal illness, what are your preferences about resuscitation?
Even if you talk with the person you entrust with your power of attorney about your preferences, he or she could forget in the moment. Committing them to writing in your estate plan helps guide the decisions of the person or people responsible for making these critical decisions in your stead.
Power of attorney documents don’t grant complete power
Properly created power of attorney documents don’t leave you vulnerable to abuses by those who might seek access to your bank accounts or who would make medical decisions based on personal gain, not your wishes. Limited power of attorney documents protect you, your preferences, your family and your finances from issues that arise when you cannot personally deal with them.
If you die, the power of attorney generally ends, replaced by the authority granted to the executor of your estate. You can also place additional limits, such as time constraints, on a power of attorney if you and your attorney agree that it makes sense for your situation.