By Jeannette McKenzie
Life can be unpredictable so you need to be ready for a time when you might not be able to care for yourself. Among other planning tools, there are two Power of Attorney documents that you should have in place if you are unable to care for yourself personally or take care of your personal business. The first is a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney. The other is a Durable Power of Attorney. These documents allow you to name a trusted family member or friend who will have the authority to take care of your medical or personal business when you are unable to take care of yourself. These documents can help prevent the need for a court appointed guardianship or conservatorship.
A Health Care Power of Attorney allows the person you choose to make inquiries and make decisions about your medical well-being This includes making medical decisions when you cannot.
To be prepared for the times in life when you are unable to deal with your personal financial business, a Durable Power of Attorney is essential. Paying bills, taxes, managing property and handling other financial responsibilities don’t go away when you are unable to handle these responsibilities yourself. As with the Health Care Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney lets you name a trusted friend or family member who can manage your responsibilities in a manner that is in your best interest when you cannot.
Planning ahead is crucial – you need to get these documents in place while you are still capable of making the decisions required to set them up so that they cannot be challenged. Consider that if you don't have them in place and you become incapacitated, the courts will need to be involved. A judge in a court of law with no personal or emotional investment in your well-being will decide who will manage your financial and health affairs. The court generally appoints a person to take care of your affairs. Even if this person would have been your choice, they will be burdened with extra paperwork and red tape that is not necessary with the proper documents that have the proper authorities for your representative.
At Cooper, Adel & Associates, we invite our clients to work with us to periodically update both Power of Attorney documents to reflect current and critical powers for your representative. Our goal is to avoid the time consuming and often costly court process. Of course, we believe that you should work with an elder law attorney so that your documents are part of an overall plan to preserve and protect what you've worked your lifetime to accumulate.