If you get into an accident or suffer an illness that leaves you unable to provide instructions for your own healthcare or to manage your finances, it is important to have powers of attorney in place to make sure you are covered.
While it is never pleasant to think about these worst-case scenarios, acting now can prevent your loved ones from having to handle even more stress than necessary in the future.
Power of attorney is a legal document that allows another person of your choosing to act in your place and make certain decisions for you. In the event of your mental or physical incapacitation, you need “durable” powers of attorney to allow others to handle your medical and financial decisions. The “durable” qualifier means that the document stays in effect during your incapacitation and inability to handle your affairs yourself.
There are two main categories of durable power of attorney: medical and financial.
Medical power of attorney
A person granted medical power of attorney oversees your healthcare during your incapacitation and makes decisions on your behalf. Common names for the appointed person include “healthcare proxy,” “agent” and “attorney-in-fact.” Your chosen agent communicates with all your doctors and care providers to ensure you receive treatment that complies with your wishes.
The agent is bound by the power of attorney document to follow all instructions you have left behind regarding your treatment preferences. To that end, it is important to make your wishes as clear as possible.
Many people choose to use a living will to leave behind instructions to their healthcare providers and agent. You should be as thorough as possible with this document, covering a variety of potential ailments and situations so your agent is not left in the position of having to guess what your wishes would be. This includes offering guidance on the extent of the care you wish to receive and at what point you do not wish to be resuscitated.
Financial power of attorney
Financial power of attorney gives your chosen agent the ability to handle your financial affairs on your behalf. Durable power of attorney for finances allows you to specify the extent of control your agent has over your financial matters.
The responsibilities a financial power of attorney agent could include depositing Social Security checks, handling mail, managing retirement accounts, filing tax returns and making various sales and purchases. Anyone chosen to take on this role should be organized and sensible when it comes to financial issues.
To learn more about how to establish durable powers of attorney for finance and healthcare, consult a dedicated New York estate planning lawyer with Lissner & Lissner LLP.