No one ever expects to be incapacitated as a result of a tragic accident or serious illness, but the truth is that this happens quite often. When someone suddenly becomes incapacitated, their family members must make major medical and financial decisions on behalf of their loved one.
This can cause a great deal of stress as family members struggle to figure out what their loved one would have wanted them to do. Fortunately, a durable power of attorney can make this situation much easier on everyone involved.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney is an important part of an estate plan. This legal document authorizes another person to make decisions regarding your finances and healthcare in the event you are ever incapacitated. The person who is authorized to make these decisions is referred to as the “attorney in fact,” and is usually a close family member or friend who can be trusted to make the right decisions.
Many people authorize the same person to manage both their healthcare and finances. However, if you would like one person to be in charge of your healthcare and another person to make financial decisions on your behalf, this is an option as well.
Durable Power of Attorney and Living Wills
The person who is given power of attorney for healthcare is usually in charge of all of the important decisions. But, if there is a living will, the attorney in fact may not have to make certain end-of-life decisions.
A living will is a legal document that deals exclusively with end-of-life decisions, specifically whether or not you would like to remain on life support. As a result, the person who is given power of attorney will not be responsible for making this decision on your behalf. Healthcare providers must honor the living will regardless of whether or not the appointed attorney in fact agrees with the decision.
For example, if a patient’s living will states that he would like to remain on life support, but the person who has been given power of attorney would like to remove life support, the doctor must follow the directions in the patient’s living will.
How to Appoint Durable Power of Attorney
If you are interested in giving the durable power of attorney to someone, meet with an estate planning attorney. This decision must be put in writing, so it’s best to let an attorney draft these documents on your behalf.
Your attorney will ensure that the document includes information on when the power of attorney will be transferred to the attorney in fact and what decisions the attorney in fact is authorized to make. After reviewing the terms, you will be asked to sign the document with an adult witness present.
Although the durable power of attorney document is important, it’s only one part of an estate plan. It’s recommended that you work with an attorney to complete the rest of your estate plan so you are prepared for whatever may happen in the future.
It’s never too soon to start planning for the future. If you’re ready to start your estate plan, let our attorneys help. We will help with the preparation of important documents such as the living will, last will and testament, and power of attorney. Contact The Nice Law Firm at 317-269-7311 to schedule a consultation regarding your needs.