Although much of estate planning deals with what happens after you die, it’s equally important to have a plan during life for making financial or medical decisions if you became unable to make them for yourself.
Carefully designed financial and health care powers of attorney allow you to designate a trusted person to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf in the event illness or injury renders you incapacitated. They also allow you to provide your designee with guidance on making these decisions, including your preferences regarding the use of life-sustaining medical procedures. Without powers of attorney, your loved ones must resort to court to get authorization to take care of you and your financial matters, which can open the door to conflict.
Review and revise as needed
Powers of attorney can provide peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out, but it’s important not to get lulled into a false sense of security. You should revisit these documents periodically in light of changing circumstances. Possible reasons you may need new powers of attorney include:
- Your wishes have changed.
- The person you designated to act on your behalf has died or become unavailable.
- You’re no longer comfortable with the person you designated. (For example, perhaps you designated your spouse or an in-law, but have since divorced.)
- If you’ve moved to another state, your powers of attorney may no longer work the way you intended. Certain terms have different meanings in different states, and states don’t have the same procedural requirements. Some states, for example, require durable powers of attorney to be filed with the local county recorder or some other government agency.
Honoring your powers of attorney
Even if your circumstances haven’t changed, it may be a good idea to execute new powers of attorney every few years. Why? Because powers of attorney are effective only if they’re honored, and — because of liability concerns — some financial institutions and health care providers may be reluctant to honor documents that are more than a few years old.
Contact us with any questions regarding powers of attorney. We’d be pleased to further explain how they work or, if your estate plan already includes powers of attorney, help determine if you need to execute new documents: Russ Russell, Debby Spain, Caty Richardson, and Sarah Johnston.