Planning how your estate will be divided, distributed, and disposed of doesn’t just mean creating a last will and testament or depositing a trust for someone. Estate planning also means preparing for the unexpected, such as falling ill with an incurable illness or becoming disabled later in life. In this regard, you will need the help of someone you completely trust to put your affairs in order, even when you can no longer make those important decisions or even communicate your wishes. Drafting durable powers of attorney gives this person you designated the legal means to sign documents, make decisions, and represent you in court.
Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will
In reality, the functions of a medical power of attorney are combined with the directives of a living will. Both are health care directives, but the durable power of attorney for health care focuses solely on assigning someone the legal duty to make decisions related to your illness or health condition. You need a living will, containing your instructions and wishes, including end-of-life decisions. Once you’ve lost the ability to think or act on your own, such as when you fell into a coma, this durable power of attorney takes effect and transfers responsibility for your personal health and well-being to your agent or attorney-in-fact.
You will have tighter control over the administration of your living will, estate planning, and health care directives when you specify that they will only go into effect after a doctor has confirmed that you lacked the mental and physical ability. In this case, you have a durable power of attorney on hand. The term ability here legally refers to a person’s lack of understanding of the nature of their medical condition, the health care options available to them, and the possible consequences of making these decisions. Additionally, that person also loses the ability to speak or make hand gestures to convey their personal health care preferences. This is where a health care statement becomes an invaluable document in your estate planning.
Through a durable power of attorney attorney, you grant someone else, someone you fully trust to act in your best interest, the legal authority to act on your behalf. However, this financial proxy attorney does not cede absolute authority to your attorney-in-fact. You can limit or expand your agent’s legal access to your financial accounts. Generally, your financial substitute can file and pay your taxes, run your business, handle financial transactions on your behalf, access your bank accounts, claim an inheritance, collect Social Security and other benefits, and use your assets and property to pay debts and cover your family’s daily expenses.
These two powers must be specified as durable when presented. Otherwise, they will not take effect once it is discovered that you do not have the ability to think and act for your well-being. A divorce ends with both documents when the agent is also the spouse. The court may revoke the authority of an agent under a power of attorney for health care when it determines that the agent has acted inappropriately. A second person named in the document assumes the position of alternate agent.