Estate Planning 101: Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Directives
Powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives are critical tools in comprehensive estate planning. Along with wills, revocable and irrevocable trusts, and asset distribution, establishing a power of attorney is essential for any estate plan. While the thought of not being able to make your own medical or financial decisions may be difficult to consider, planning for these contingencies is important for ensuring your well-being and protecting your family from the burden of making challenging decisions under stressful circumstances. Here's why these documents matter:
Powers of Attorney
A vital part of lifetime planning is the power of attorney. It is accepted in all states, but the rules and requirements differ in each state. Powers of attorney give one or more persons the power to act on your behalf as your agent. It could be limited to a certain activity, like closing the sale of your home, or be more general, like having broad real estate powers. The power may give temporary or permanent authority to act on your behalf. It could also take effect immediately, or rely on the occurrence of a future event, usually a resolve that you are unable to act for yourself due to mental or physical incapacity.
“Agent” or “attorney-in-fact” are the terms used for a power of attorney that acts on your behalf. This individual can take any action permitted in the document. In order to invoke the power, your agent must present the actual document. Powers of attorney are a matter of convenience if you are buying or selling assets and do not want to appear in person to close the transaction. Instead, you may take advantage of your power of attorney. Using a power of attorney would also be important to prepare for situations when you may not be able to act on your own behalf. This could be due to absence or incapacity, which could be temporary from travel, an accident, or illness.
Who to Name as Your Agent
It is common to name your spouse or children to act on your behalf for the power of attorney. Naming more than one agent is beneficial, since not all of them may be available to act when needed. The qualifications necessary for someone to act as an attorney-in-fact are that the person must not be a minor and/or incapacitated. Most importantly, choose someone that you trust and has integrity.
Which Powers Should I Give My Agent?
An attorney-in-fact can manage your day-to-day financial affairs and take steps to implement your estate plan. However, an agent cannot create or revise your will on your behalf. They are permitted to transfer your assets to trusts that you created or distribute other property. The power of attorney should clearly state whether you want your agent to have these powers.
Advance Healthcare Directives
An Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD) is an essential legal document that allows you to articulate your preferences for medical treatment in scenarios where you might be unable to communicate your wishes yourself. These can include instances where you are unconscious, severely injured, or otherwise incapacitated due to illness or disability.
What Happens If You Do Not Have an AHCD?
If you are unable to make decisions on your own and you do not have an advance directive, medical decisions will be made according to the state laws where you live. Typically, the decision-making falls on your spouse, parents, or children if they are adults. If you have no family members, certain states allow a close friend who is aware of your values to help.
Why You Should Have an Advance Healthcare Directive
An Advance Healthcare Directive plays a critical role in ensuring that you receive the kind of medical care that you wish to have. It allows you to outline specific medical treatments you would or would not want to receive in various situations. Not only does having a plan prepare you for unforeseen circumstances, but it can offer you and your loved ones peace of mind.
The Directive also gives medical providers clarity and instruction on what your wishes are, which is important in emergency situations. Decision-making processes are expedited when your requests are specifically laid out in a document. The burden that would otherwise be on family members to make those decisions is also relieved, taking the pressure off them and being able to abide by the guidelines you have already laid out for yourself.
Overall, powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives offer peace of mind in knowing that you have planned for the unexpected. They give you control over your financial and medical decisions to ensure that your wishes are communicated. Guidance is provided to your family and relieves stress in making decisions. If you do not have a power of attorney established, an estate planning attorney in Boynton Beach, Fischetti Law Group, can help you get these very important documents started.
An estate planning attorney will help you make sure your powers of attorney and healthcare directives hold up legally in the state of Florida, and they can meet with you periodically to revise or edit your plans as you see fit. Hiring an estate planning attorney will also help to make sure that your plans are communicated, so that your family can live with peace of mind. Reach out to one of our estate planning attorneys at Fischetti Law Group by calling or texting 833-645-3247.
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