Matthew R. Rich
Benefits of Estate Planning: Power of Attorney Documents
When I meet with clients, I often hear them say “We’ve been meaning to do this for a while.” For whatever reason, they know that it is important for them to do their estate planning. There are many important reasons to do your estate planning, not the least of which is to provide yourself peace of mind, which is something everyone wants. As many times as I’ve heard “We’ve been meaning to do this for a while,” I also hear “I’m glad we got this done.”
One very important part of the estate planning process is the execution of power of attorney documents. These documents allow you to appoint trusted individuals or loved ones to make decisions for you in the event of your disability or incapacity. Without them, your loved ones do not have the legal authority to handle your affairs for you if you are unable to – not even your spouse. Having properly prepared power of attorney documents in place prior to any unexpected event or accident can save your loved ones from a great deal of difficulty, conflict, and costly and time-consuming court proceedings.
We typically draft three power of attorney documents for clients: 1) general durable power of attorney, 2) healthcare power of attorney, and in the case of a married couple, 3) a homestead power of attorney.
A general durable power of attorney allows the person you appoint as your agent to make all non-health related decisions on your behalf. The document allows your agent to access your bank account, pay your bills, contact financial institutions on your behalf, or manage a business you might own, to name a few of the powers it provides. We draft our document to be as comprehensive as possible and are continually looking for ways to update the document to provide for changes in the law or to address different issues that may arise in our clients’ lives.
A healthcare power of attorney allows your agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. It also allows your agent to access medical records, if necessary. An addendum to the healthcare power of attorney is a living will document. This document allows your agent to make end of life decisions related to your care. In addition to our standard living will document, we can also draft a living will document that incorporates the teachings of various religious denominations regarding end of life issues.
The homestead power of attorney is only for married couples, because State law requires that any decision regarding a married couple’s residential property must be made by joint agreement between the husband and wife. In the event one or both of the spouses is incapacitated, the homestead power of attorney allows the appointed agent to make decisions regarding the married couple’s residence, such as refinancing, renting, or selling the property.