Estate planning does not end with the creation of a trust or will. In fact, a comprehensive estate plan includes power of attorney documents that cover everything from your medical decisions to financial transactions.
Unfortunately, there are those who do not recognize the need to execute such documents. This can be a grave mistake. Planning for incapacity is just as important as planning for death and protecting your assets. We do not know what the future may hold and failing to include these documents can leave you and your family members in compromising positions in the event something was to occur.
Do Not Leave Your Medical Decisions Up To Chance
Many of us recoil at the thought of a court-appointed conservator making our medical decisions on our behalf if we are incapacitated. However, if you are unmarried and are over the age of 18, it will be necessary for the court to appoint a conservator without a health care power of attorney document.
There are a variety of problems this can cause. First, you lose the power to have a say in who your agent will be, the type of care you will receive, where you will receive medical care and any end-of-life decisions. Your agent may not know your wishes, beliefs or expectations regarding your care.
Secondly, failing to leave written instructions can lead to family disputes regarding your treatment. Your conservator may wish to prolong your life using artificial means, while other family members disagree.
Who Will Manage Your Finances If You Are Incapacitated?
Financial powers of attorney grant an agent the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. If you fail to appoint a financial power of attorney and are deemed incapacitated, your loved ones must go to court for a conservatorship or guardianship proceeding. This can leave your bills going unpaid such as your mortgage, medical expenses, taxes and other financial obligations for accounts held solely in your name.
In addition, your family members may disagree on who should be appointed your conservator or guardian.