A will serves as the basis of your estate plan. Most people understand the importance of having a will. However, a will is a document that becomes effective when you die. What happens if during your lifetime you become disabled or incapacitated for an extended period of time and are unable to make decisions for yourself? Over half of us at some point in our lives will become disabled or incapacitated for a substantial period of time. Unfortunately, a will does not deal with this issue.
The best way to insure that you are prepared for the possibility of becoming disabled or incapacitated is to have an attorney draft powers of attorney for property and healthcare for you. These documents allow you to choose an agent to make financial and medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated or disabled.
One caution: Powers of attorney must be drafted while you are competent. If you wait until you are sick or hospitalized, it may be too late. Your relatives may then have to go through a court guardianship proceeding, which can extremely expensive and time-consuming.
Discuss with your attorney what powers are necessary in the power of attorney documents. Choose your agent carefully – your agent should be someone that you trust completely and that you are confident will make decisions based on your best interests.
It is important to have a will, but it is equally if not more important to include the power of attorney documents in your estate plan. Properly drafted and executed, these documents can make it much easier for your loved ones to care for you at a time when you need them the most.
Linda M. Strohschein
Attorney at Law