What would happen if you became incapacitated and could no longer make medical decisions or financial decisions? This question frequently comes up during estate planning consultations and for good reason. Medical decisions and financial decisions can be quite intimate and most people would want a close relative or friend to make these decisions in their place. Let’s put this into perspective with an example. You just got into a car accident and are in critical condition. The doctors have multiple options for their procedures with all of them having long lasting consequences and aren’t sure which you would like to perform because they don’t know the intimate details of your daily life. What decisions are going to be made and how are you going to continue to pay your bills in the meantime?
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney (or healthcare power of attorney) is a legal document that lets you give someone (your “agent”) legal authority to make important decisions about your medical care. If you have a designated medical power of attorney, then the doctors would allow for that trusted agent to make decisions on your behalf instead of the doctors assuming the best course of action. Typically, everyone should have a medical power of attorney but it is of greater importance when you know you will be having a major medical procedure or are concerned about a degenerative disease. The agent will have the ability to decide the medical care that you receive, who will care for your everyday needs, which doctors oversee medical care, and a choice in the medical facility. In the above example, your agent can then decide which procedure you would most likely want by weighing the benefits and consequences with intimate regard towards your future wants and needs.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney is a legal document that gives a trusted individual the right to make your financial, business and real estate decisions when you are incapacitated. You can give your agent as little or as much power over your finances as you wish and they must make their decisions according to your wishes or values. In the example above, if you were incapacitated for some time after the car accident then your agent could have the authority to make all of your bill payments on time and pay for medical procedures which is usually the concern for most individuals.
What Should I Do Now?
Having an updated medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney is an important aspect of estate planning and can be completed fairly quickly. These are two documents that are essential to any estate plan and a lot of thought should go into your choice of an agent. If you or a loved one are contemplating updating your medical power of attorney or financial power of attorney, please give The Sauter Law Firm a call and set up a free consultation at 513-341-5078.