The True Power of Power of Attorney
by Peter J. McFarland, J.D., LL.M
In my years of experience as an estate planning attorney, clients often ask me, “What exactly is a power of attorney?”
There are several different types of powers of attorney. Today, I’m going to focus on two of these types and explain how they work in the estate planning context, and why they become essential to your certainty at critical times, in life.
A power of attorney, at its core, is a document that allows someone to step into your shoes and make important life decisions on your behalf. In the estate planning context, they are used in the event that you have not yet passed away, but for some reason you are unable to communicate your wishes, and you need someone to look after you and make those important decisions. They most often arise in cases of coma, severe dementia, or a case where you are in a persistent vegetative state.
If any of these situations were to come to pass, there are two types of power of attorneys every estate plan should have. The first is a durable general power of attorney. This document allows the person you choose to have complete control over your financial matters. It is used to ensure that bills are still paid and your property and investments are cared for.
The other document is a durable medical power of attorney. This document ensures that your medical providers are given clear direction as to the course of your care. If you’ve discussed your wishes with your power of attorney beforehand, this document can ensure that you don’t stay on life support longer than you wish, that you are not in pain, and you receive the level of care that you desire.
One scenario many people don’t consider revolves around kids who are bound for college. If a child is over the age of 18, you may no longer be in a position to direct their medical care without court intervention. The drafting and execution of a power of attorney can solve this problem by providing clear direction that you as a parent are still authorized to make medical decisions, in case something happens.
These documents and decisions are often not the easiest to think through, but working with a professional like me can help you to organize the thought process and ensure that your loved ones aren’t caught off guard, if something happens to you.
To set up or revise your estate plan, execute power of attorney documents, or to schedule a consultation to get your questions answered, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help guide you through the details and make the best choice for your unique situation and peace of mind. Thanks so much for joining me!