Power of Attorney
Talking about legal documents is sometimes confusing and overwhelming, particularly if you are a family caregiver. Taking care of a senior loved one can be challenging enough, without having to worry about complicated paperwork and legal issues. However, our estate planning attorneys in Southern California cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is for all seniors to have certain documents in place, such as a power of attorney. This is because financial and medical powers of attorney–POAs–provide peace of mind that cannot be acquired any other way. Below are some essential facts on what these documents are and why they are a vital part of any senior’s estate plan.
What is a Power of Attorney?
Generally speaking, a power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to act on behalf of another individual. With such a document in place, the older adult in your life has the peace of mind that comes from knowing that decisions concerning his or her medical care and financial life will never end up in the hands of a stranger.
Although it may seem like a hassle to put such documents in place, not doing so creates a significant risk for the older individual. For example, if something happened to your loved one and he or she could no longer make decisions, but did not have a power of attorney in place, you may need to go to court to gain the authority to handle that person’s medical treatment and financial affairs. This is the case even if you were the person your loved designated for that role. Unless it is drawn up by an estate planning attorney or other legal professional, you must still be granted permission from the courts before you can act on that person’s behalf.
Below are some reasons why it is essential to have both financial and medical POAs in place:
Financial Power of Attorney
As its name implies, a financial power of attorney names a person as financial agent for someone else. Depending on the circumstances, the person has the authority to access financial accounts to pay medical and household bills, file taxes, apply for public benefits–such as medicaid or veterans benefits–and manage property on behalf of the other person.
Medical Power of Attorney
With a medical POA in place, a person can name an individual to direct his or her health care and make medical decisions. For example, if your mother was ill or required surgery and you were her medical power of attorney, you could discuss her situation with health care professionals and make decisions about the kind of care she receives.
Of course, there are also certain things that a power of attorney does not give you permission to do, such as make decisions after a person’s death, change his or her will, or transfer your power of attorney authority to another individual.
Seeking the Advice of an Attorney
Estate planning is important for every individual and for senior citizens, a power of attorney is a vital part of such a plan. Although there are do-it-yourself ways to appoint a POA, our estate planning attorneys recommend having a legal professional draw up the documents to ensure that your senior loved one is protected regardless of what the future may bring.