An estate plan isn’t just your will. You can add documents to protect yourself, not just to name a guardian for your children and to distribute property to the people you love if you die.
Powers of attorney are documents that could help in the event of some kind of emergency. If you are unable to speak on your own behalf, make decisions about your medical care or manage your financial circumstances, powers of attorney will give someone the authority to handle those matters for you.
A power of attorney could help if you experience incapacitation due to Alzheimer’s or cognitive decline as you age. It could also protect you if you get hurt at work or in a car crash. When do you need power of attorney?
When you have needs that no one can legally meet
Many people, like college students, don’t realize that they need power of attorney. A 19-year-old student headed off to school will probably assume that their parents can help them in the event of an emergency.
What they don’t know is that the same federal privacy laws that protect their medical information also limit the ability of their ability to help them in an emergency. Adults without spouses may not have anyone authorized to access their medical information or make decisions in the event of an emergency. Powers of attorney allow people to name someone they trust to take on these important responsibilities.
When you have routine financial obligations
Do you have a mortgage that you need to pay or a balance on your credit card statement? If you are unconscious in the hospital for two months, what would happen to your home and your bank account?
People frequently draft powers of attorney to give someone access to their financial accounts and the authority to pay bills and conduct other transactions on their behalf.
When you have strong medical preferences
Even if there is no one to speak for you, medical professionals will try to provide you with the best standard of care possible in an emergency. Unfortunately, what is standard in many medical facilities may violate your personal beliefs or religion.
When you have strong preferences about medical care, such as a religious objection to blood transfusions or certain drugs, a medical power of attorney empowers someone you trust to serve as an advocate to get you the care that aligns with your beliefs or preferences.
Although many people who draft powers of attorney will never need the documents, the security and protection they offer are truly invaluable. Adding the right documents to your estate plan will help you minimize the risk of living in an unpredictable world.