Planning how your estate shall be divided, distributed and disposed of doesn’t only mean creating a last will and testament or putting up a trust for someone. Estate planning also means preparing for the unexpected, such as falling ill to an incurable disease or becoming incapacitated later in life. In this regard, you’ll need the help of someone you completely trust to put your affairs in order even when you’re no longer able to make those important decisions or even communicate your wishes. Drafting durable powers of attorney gives this person you appointed the legal means to sign documents, make decisions, and represent you in court.
The Medical Power of Attorney and The Living Will
Actually, the functions of a medical power of attorney play in tandem to the directives of a living will. They’re both 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. It needs a living will, which contains your instructions and wishes, including end-of-life decisions. Once you’ve lost the capacity to think or act on your own, such as when you’ve fallen into a coma, this durable power of attorney takes effect and hands over the responsibility for your personal health and well-being to your agent or attorney-in-fact.
You’ll have tighter control over managing your living will, estate planning, and health care directives when you specify that these shall only take effect after a physician has confirmed that you lacked the mental and physical capacity. In this case, you have a springing durable power attorney in hand. The term capacity here legally pertains to a person’s lack of understanding of the nature of his medical condition, the health care options open to him, and the possible consequences from making these choices. In addition, that person also loses the ability to speak out or make hand gestures to relay his personal preferences for medical care. This is where a health care declaration becomes an invaluable document in your estate planning.
The Financial Power of Attorney
Through a durable financial power attorney, you give another person – someone you fully trust to act in your best interests – the legal authority to act on your behalf. However, this power attorney for finances doesn’t hand over absolute authority to your proxy. You may limit or extend your agent’s legal access to your financial accounts. Generally, your financial surrogate can file and pay your taxes, manage your business, handle financial transactions in your name, access your bank accounts, claim an inheritance, collect Social Security and other benefits, and make use of your assets and properties to pay off debts and provide for your family’s daily expenses.
These two powers of attorney must be specified as durable when filed. Otherwise, they won’t take effect once you were found lacking capacity to think and act for your well-being. A divorce ends both documents when the agent is also the spouse. The court may revoke an agent’s authority under a power of attorney for health care when it finds that the agent has acted improperly. A second person named in the document takes over as an alternate agent.