leaving a legacy

Why You Might Need a Power of Attorney

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By Michele Schreck, Wealth Advisor

Many people don’t think ahead to the day when they can no longer conduct their own affairs.

We often hear about people experiencing unexpected health issues that temporarily, or permanently, keep them from exercising their independence. If you are not prepared, this could inconvenience family or friends who must step in to help, potentially creating a financial and emotional burden.

Have you thought about your legacy?

We highly recommend that you appoint a trusted family member or friend as your power of attorney (POA), giving them the ability to help with your financial or health needs, should an unfortunate event occur in your life. It allows you to decide in advance whom you trust and want to act on your behalf if, for whatever reason, you cannot make decisions or authorize documents.

Such an important decision shouldn’t be left till you’re in the throes of an already difficult situation.

A person acting as your medical power of attorney can decide:

  • What medical care you receive, including hospital care, surgery, psychiatric treatment, home health care, etc. (These choices are dependent on your financial means and the approval of your financial POA.)
  • Which doctors and care providers you use.
  • Where you live. This includes decisions regarding residential long-term care, such as assisted living, memory care and nursing homes. (Again, you must be able to afford the living arrangements and the financial POA must approve these costs.)
  • Your dietary requirements, if you are in assisted living or nursing care.
  • Who bathes you and takes care of your personal needs.

A person acting as your financial power of attorney can:

  • Access your financial accounts to pay for health care, housing needs and other bills.
  • File taxes on your behalf.
  • Make investment decisions on your behalf.
  • Collect any debt payments owed to you.
  • Manage any property you own.
  • Apply for public benefits for you, such as Medicaid and veterans benefits.

Your Power of Attorney cannot:

  • Change your will in any way.
  • Break their fiduciary duty to act in your best interest.
  • Make decisions on your behalf after your death. (Unless the power of attorney has also been named as the executor of your will, or if you die without a will and the power of attorney then petitions to become administrator of your estate.)
  • Change or transfer POA duties to someone else. An appointed POA has the right to decline their appointment at any time. However, unless you named a co-agent or alternate agent in the same POA document or are still competent to appoint someone else to act on your behalf, a power of attorney cannot choose who takes over their duties.

If you have a trust and you are the trustee, a power of attorney cannot act for you unless you have provided specific instructions within the trust document identifying the duties the power of attorney is authorized to perform.

This list may not encompass every duty of a POA, but I hope it has given you some things to think about if you have not already appointed a power of attorney to act for you if you cannot.

Taking this step can give you and your loved ones clarity and comfort in case the unexpected happens.

We are proud to offer estate planning services as well as comprehensive financial advice. Get in touch today to see how we can help you put together a plan for you and your family.

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