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Why are Power of Attorneys so Important

By Kahri Thompson

Unlikely circumstances happen to arise every day, for instance, car crashes, freak accidents and terminal illnesses. These circumstances illustrate why only verbalizing what you want to happen financially and medically is not enough. Thus, why powers of attorney are such an important part of the estate planning process. These documents give individuals peace of mind that if one of life’s unlikely circumstances happen, their health care and financial decisions will be handled as they desire and by the right person(s).

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document which allows you to appoint someone, usually a spouse or close relative, as the agent to make financial and/or medical decisions for you. These documents bring the comfort of knowing your agents are legally required to act as you have directed. POA’s can be as specific and detailed as the individual would like.

For the financial power of attorney (FPOA), it is best the agent chosen is financially literate, but most importantly it needs to be someone you trust. The agent appointed can handle routine tasks like sorting mail, paying bills, depositing checks, along with having the power to over-see an individual’s bank accounts and file tax returns. Having a FPOA is also valuable in the case of providing for an individual’s dependents financially. When creating your POA’s the decisions you want to happen will be outlined as extensively or as minimally as you would like. Meaning you can set strict restrictions on what your agent is able to access and do on your behalf.

The agent appointed as your health care power of attorney (HCPOA) will work alongside health care professionals to make sure you get the care you want, as well as having the ability to vocalize your health care choices. There are multiple things to consider when deciding if you need a health care power of attorney and who is the right person to appoint as your agent. First to consider is the Hippocratic Oath doctors take when becoming heath care professionals. If the individual doesn’t have a HCPOA, doctors have an obligation to do everything in their power to save that person’s life, even if it may not be what the individual wants. This is also a sure way to exhaust substantial amounts of an individual’s finances. A spouse can make health care decisions for their husband/wife without a HCPOA in play. This can be reassuring for some but even if your spouse knows the decisions you want made, during such an emotional time, can you be sure they will be able to make the tough calls? Also, if your spouse is incapacitated alongside you or if you are not married, heath care professionals will need to spend unnecessary time finding your next of kin, who may or may not know what you want or again be unable to make the tough decisions.

These and other important choices are what you should consider in the event of an unlikely circumstance happening to you. Once having done so, these documents can provide you with comfort of knowing that your decisions were handled as you wished and provide comfort to your loved ones, as they don’t have to guess but can follow your direction.