What would happen to your money if you become incapacitated due to injury, disease, or illness? You may think I am going to bring up the need to create a will or trust. I am not. Although those documents are important, they ensure your assets are given to your beneficiaries after you die.
If you do not have a “power of attorney” in place and were in a coma for weeks or months in a hospital, your bank, automobile, home, or utility accounts could not be accessed by your loved ones on your behalf. I have seen this troubling story unfold a number of times with family members, clients, and friends. Although most do eventually get access to needed funds, it is costly and time consuming to do so through court action to have a conservator or guardian appointed.
Meanwhile, if everyone over the age of majority put a “power of attorney” in place, all bill payments and other financial responsibilities could be met easily and seamlessly. I was fortunate as my father had put “durable powers of attorney” in place years prior to his catastrophic heart failure event which led to vascular dementia. By naming me as the agent, I was able to meet all of his financial responsibilities (bill payments) up until his death. I just walked into his local bank and faxed copies to utility companies and was able to access funds as needed and keep all of his payments up to date and meet his medical and home care support needs.
There are a few key things to know about powers of attorney and I highly recommend that you consult with your own local attorney to get the correct documents in place per state law and individual circumstances. In the meantime, here are some important considerations.
Powers of attorney can differ depending on when you want the powers to begin and end and on how much responsibility you want to give to your agent. The most common is the “durable power of attorney, which begins when you sign it, but stays in effect for your lifetime unless you cancel it. You must put specific words in the document stating that you want your agent’s power to stay in effect even if you become incapacitated. If you want this feature, it’s very important that you have these words in your document.
All powers of attorney come to an end at your death. Your agent will have no power to make any decisions after you die. This is why you also will need to create a will or trust.
Select someone you trust completely. Never forget that you are giving your agent the opportunity to access your funds at a time when you may not be able to keep tabs on what the agent is doing. So this person must be very honest and trustworthy.
We never know when we may be struck by an unexpected accident or illness. Don’t delay and get your powers of attorney in place for the benefit of you and your loved ones.