Most people are aware of the value and importance of power of attorney documents. They can be used in so many situations. For example, if you need to get your car tag renewed but need to send someone else to handle this for you, you will likely need a power of attorney to allow this other person to conduct this business for you. There are many other such scenarios like this one, where a simple power of attorney document is all that is necessary. This is all great and you may think you have it all covered; however, there are problems that can arise if you are not well-informed about the proper documents you may need. For instance, what happens if you become mentally incapacitated? Many people do not know that if they have a general power of attorney document drafted, it becomes null and void in the event you become mentally incapacitated. The general document will no longer prove useful in this event. Instead, you will need what is called a “durable” power of attorney. This document will withstand any incapacity and will allow your designated agent or “attorney-in-fact” to make decisions on your behalf.
There are primarily two types you should be familiar with. The first is simply called a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances (or Financial Durable Power of Attorney) and the second is an Advance Directive. The first will allow your designated attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf with regard to your business and financial affairs. It allows this person to pay your bills, handle your banking affairs, and so on as provided for in the document. The second, which combines the two documents that were previously called a Healthcare Power of Attorney with a Living Will into one document, allows your designated person to make decisions on your behalf with regard to your healthcare. For example, this document will allow your agent (attorney-in-fact) to work with your medical providers to ensure you get the medical care you need. They are to make decisions according to your wishes; to the extent they are known. The Advance Directive also indicates your wishes with regard to treatment, pain relief and life-sustaining activities, so there is no mistake as to what your wishes are.
Any attorney can assist you with these documents if you have questions, and can discuss those documents that are best suited to your needs. Use of these documents can save your family from having to go to court to have your needs met. It is worth the time, effort, and expense to have these documents in your planning “toolbox”. Proper planning now can save you and your family from headaches in the future. That, in and of itself, is a big deal!