Having a Power of Attorney in place before you need it, is best!
Many times, important decisions must be made at a time when you are least able to make them. For instance, a sudden illness could temporarily or permanently take away the ability to make decisions. Since you don’t know what unforeseen events lie ahead, it is best to have powers of attorney in place, so a trusted person can step in and help if needed.
A “Power of Attorney,” or POA, is a legal document that authorizes a person of your choosing to act on your behalf in certain situations. The two most common types of POA’s are property and healthcare. The primary use of a POA is having someone legally empowered to make decisions for you if you become ill, incapacitated or even absent. Having such legal documents in place prior to the need arising, allows you greater control over what happens.
As you grow older, sometimes you need help when routine financial tasks become confusing or difficult. A Power of Attorney for property allows someone to step in and help you pay bills, sell property or apply for Medicaid. In contrast, a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare only comes into effect if you are unable to communicate. In that case, your agent has the authority to carry out your desires for medical treatment that you expressed in your Living Will.
It is important to recognize that your family cannot get a POA after you have become incapacitated. If you become incapacitated without a valid POA, a court may have to appoint a Guardian and Conservator to make important decisions for you. When this happens, sometimes family members fight over who will be appointed, and the costs to obtain and maintain a Guardianship and Conservatorship are high.
Many people feel some apprehension about creating a POA. They wonder, will my assets and money be kept safe? How do I know the authorized person will act in my best interest? These are valid concerns that can be addressed at the time of drafting a POA.
Here are a few tips you may want to consider when deciding to move forward on your power of attorney:
- Select someone who you trust and is competent to make difficult decisions in complex situations and who is looking out for what is best for you. While steps may be taken to prevent against abuse and fraud, there is no substitute for a trustworthy, qualified agent. A child or sibling can make for a good potential candidate.
- Creating a POA in no way limits your current access or control over financial and healthcare decisions.
- You have the option to revoke a POA should circumstances change that make it in your best interest to do so.
- A POA does not replace a person’s Will. POA’s are designed to terminate automatically upon death.
- Having a Power of Attorney for property is safer than putting someone on your checking account.
If you have the foresight and prudence to plan for incapacity before the need arises, you will be in the driver’s seat when important decisions in your life have to be made by others.
Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.
Thomas W. Packer
186 East Judicial Street
Blackfoot, Idaho 83221