Why Everyone Over Age 18 Should Have a Power of Attorney

Web Admin - Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Barrington power of attorney lawyerA power of attorney is one of the most basic, and yet most important, legal protections that every adult should have. A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives another person the authority to act in your place when you cannot be physically present yourself or if you become incapacitated. There are two types of POA, for property and for healthcare. A power of attorney for property authorizes a designated person to handle your financial affairs, while a power of attorney for healthcare empowers your named representative to make medical decisions on your behalf. 

When Is the Right Time to Create a Power of Attorney?

Imagine that you are struck tomorrow by a catastrophic accident or sudden incapacitating illness. If you are married, your spouse should have access to your financial resources to pay for your medical care and the right to make medical decisions on your behalf. But consider what would happen if you are not married or if your spouse is incapacitated at the same time you are. Do you think your immediate family members would agree on who should take charge of your financial affairs and make medical decisions for you? Having a POA in place will head off disputes that could cause long-term rifts in a family.

Young adults often assume that their parents will be able to step in and handle everything in such an event. However, once you turn 18, your parents do not necessarily have the legal authority to access your medical records and bank accounts and to make healthcare and financial decisions on your behalf. 

Similarly, adults with aging parents may assume they can step in at any time and take over their parents’ affairs. However, why leave it to chance? Do you really want siblings fighting over who is going to take charge? Instead, encourage your aging relatives to sign powers of attorney while they are still competent to make that choice. The POA can be a first step toward creating a comprehensive will and estate plan.

What Does a Power of Attorney for Property Do?

You can create a very limited power of attorney document for a specific situation, such as authorizing your lawyer to handle a real estate closing for you when you cannot be present in person. More commonly, the purpose is much broader. A power of attorney document will specify a list of decisions that your designated representative can make on your behalf, such as selling your home; trading stocks, bonds, and other investments; collecting Social Security and other retirement benefits on your behalf; paying bills from your checking account; managing a trust account; and filing your tax returns.

What Does a Power of Attorney for Healthcare Do?

When you prepare a POA for healthcare, you can specify the powers that your designated representative will have and when those powers will take effect. The medical topics covered in a healthcare POA may include:

- Whether your POA will have full access to your medical records.

- Whether you want extraordinary measures taken to keep you alive as long as possible or instead wish to prioritize quality of life over length of life.

- In what type of circumstances you want life-sustaining treatment to be administered or withheld, or whether you would only like pain-relieving medication to be administered.

- Whether you want to be an organ donor upon your death.

- How you want your mortal remains handled upon your death, e.g., burial or cremation.

Consult a Schaumburg Power of Attorney Lawyer

An attorney can serve as a neutral third party when you need to convince an elderly relative to sign powers of attorney while they are still competent, particularly if you are assisting them with moving out of their home and into some type of assisted living facility. If you need a POA for yourself but are not sure what powers you want to grant your designated representative and when you want those powers to take effect, an experienced Palatine estate planning attorney can explain your options. Call Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC at 847-934-6000 to set up a free initial consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


Advance Directives, Living Wills, and Healthcare Power of Attorney

Web Admin - Thursday, February 08, 2018
Schaumburg estate planning lawyer advance directivesProper estate planning is essential for every family, and the decisions made during this process will allow you to protect your personal property and financial assets and pass them on to your heirs after your death. But in addition to considering what will happen after you die, it is also a good idea to plan for how medical decisions will be handled for you if you ever become unable to make these decisions for yourself. The documents detailing your instructions in these matters are known as advance directives, and the two most common directives are living wills and healthcare power of attorney.

Living Wills

With a living will, you can inform a doctor or other healthcare provider that you do not want them to use medical procedures which will delay your death if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. A living will only goes into effect if you have an “incurable and irreversible condition [in which] death is imminent” and you are unable to communicate your preferences to your doctor.

Illinois law provides a standard form for living wills, but you may also create your own customized document, including specific instructions about certain situations or medical procedures you do not want your doctor to perform.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney document allows you to name someone who is authorized to make decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself. You can give this person, known as your agent, broad authority to make decisions, or you can include specific instructions about what types of decisions they can make, what treatments you do and do not want to receive, whether you would like to donate your organs after your death, and how your remains should be disposed of.

Healthcare power of attorney will go into effect as soon as the document is signed, and your agent will continue to have authority to make decisions until your death, unless you include a time limit. If you have both a living will and healthcare power of attorney, decisions about death-delaying treatments will be made by your agent, unless they are unavailable, in which case your doctors will follow the instructions in your living will.

Contact a Schaumburg Estate Planning Lawyer

In addition to healthcare power of attorney and a living will, you may want to consider other advance directives: a mental health treatment preference declaration which will describe what treatments for mental illness you want to receive if you cannot make decisions for yourself, or a do not resuscitate (DNR) order which states that you do not want to be revived if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating.

If you want to know more about how to create the advance directives that will ensure your wishes are carried out correctly if you are incapacitated, the skilled attorneys at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC can answer your questions and work with you to create the documents you need. Contact our Barrington estate planning attorneys at 847-934-6000 to schedule a personalized consultation.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.


2016 Changes to the Illinois Power of Attorney Act

Web Admin - Monday, March 14, 2016

Illinois Power of Attorney Act, Illinois Estate Planning Attorneys The Illinois Power of Attorney Act saw a handful of small, but important changes as of January 1, 2016. These changes help make the health care power of attorney short form easier to use, and gives principals (i.e., the person who executes the power of attorney) more control over what their agents can have access to during their life and after. If you are interested in preparing and executing a health care power of attorney, you can contact an estate planning lawyer today for professional assistance throughout each step of the process. 

What Changes Have Occurred to the Health Care POA Form?

Several significant changes to the Illinois Power of Attorney Act concerning health care power of attorneys include:

- The Option to Allow an Agent Access to the Principal’s Medical Records. The health care power of attorney short form has been updated and now includes a checkbox option that indicates that an agent is authorized, as of the date of the execution of the form, to have access to the medical records of the principal. Access to the principal’s medical records allows the agent to make well informed decisions about the principal’s health care.

- Decisional Capacity Has Been Defined. The changes to the Act and the power of attorney short form adopts the definition of “decisional capacity” from the Illinois Health Care Surrogate Act. “Decisional capacity” is the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of a decision that is being made concerning medical treatment or choosing to forego life-sustaining care and having the ability to reach and communicate an informed decision on the matter as determined by the attending physician. The change to the Illinois Power of Attorney Act places the attending physician into a position to make judgement calls regarding whether a principal has decisional capacity. 

- The Agent Can Pursue Applications for Government Benefits After the Death of the Principal. When a health care agent files for government benefits on behalf of the principal, but the principal dies and no administrator or executor was appointed for the principal’s estate, under the changes to the Illinois Power of Attorney Act, the health care agent can continue to pursue those government benefit applications. As a general rule, a power of attorney terminates with the death of the principal. However, the changes in the Power of Attorney Act now allow for this government benefits application exception. 

- Who Can Be a Witness for a Health Care Power of Attorney Has Been Updated. When a principal signs a power of attorney, another individual must also sign the power of attorney as a witness to the principal’s signature. The Illinois Power of Attorney Act is very specific as to which licensed professionals are not permitted to be a witness, which excludes the principal’s attending physician, physician assistant, advanced practice nurse, podiatric physician, dentist, optometrist, or mental health service provider. “Mental health service provider” has been changed to “psychologist,” as of January 1. 

If you would like assistance preparing and executing a health care power of attorney, or have any other estate planning needs, please feel free to contact one of our experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys today. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves the communities of Crystal Lake, Palatine, Des Plaines, Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg Riverwoods, Kenilworth, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, and Arlington Heights. Call 847-934-6000 to speak to a member of our team.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.



Changes to the Illinois Health Care Power of Attorney

Web Admin - Friday, January 23, 2015

healthcare power of attorney in Illinois, Palatine estate planning attorneysHealth care powers of attorney are some of the most serious estate planning decisions that people will have to make throughout the course of their lives. Most estate planning decisions relate to structuring assets and ensuring that children and relatives are properly cared for. Health care powers of attorney are different. They are legal documents that allow people to determine how they want their loved ones to make health care decisions on their behalf in the case that they are unable to themselves. These sorts of documents are regulated by the state, and the Illinois legislature recently updated the law that governs health care powers of attorney used in the state, adding new notice requirements and changing the calculus for end of life decision making.

New Notice Requirements

One of the biggest changes that the update made was a complete revision of the notice that precedes the actual health care power of attorney form. The new form breaks the notice provision down into nine headings that have questions beneath them. These headings include:

  • - What Are the Things I Want My Health Care Agent to Know?
  • - What Kind of Decisions Can My Agent Make?
  • - Whom Should I Choose to Be My Health Care Agent?
  • - What If My Agent Is Not Available or Not Willing to Make Health Care Decisions for Me?
  • - Will Happen If I Do Not Choose a Health Care Agent?
  • - What If There Is No One Available Whom I Trust to Be My Agent?
  • - What Do I Do With This Form Once I Complete It?
  • - What If I Change My Mind?
  • - What If I Do Not Want to Use This Form?

Each of these sections include questions and answers that allow the power of attorney form to be filled out in different blocks.

Changes to End of Life Decision-Making

The law also made some important changes in the way that it frames end-of-life decisions. The biggest change in this manner is the fact that the new power of attorney form now distinguishes quality of life from quantity of life. Essentially the new form provides a check box for people to decide whether it is more important for them to have a life they can live fully or whether they would be willing to extend their lives for a hope at making a recovery. The goal of this new distinction is to help people better express what sorts of values their health care should be trying to accomplish.

Estate planning is a complex field that covers everything from health care decisions to future tax liabilities. If you have questions about this new health care power of attorney or some other aspect of estate planning, contact an Illinois estate planning lawyer today. The law firm of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC serves clients in many northwest suburban locations, such as Long Grove, Riverwoods, Palatine, Arlington Heights, and Barrington.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

The Duties and Responsibilities Associated with a Power of Attorney

Web Admin - Thursday, October 16, 2014

power of attorney rights and responsibilitiesIllness, injury, or age can often render a person unable to take proper care of their finances and their property. As a solution to this issue, Illinois law allows people to set up a power of attorney for property. This is a legal document that lets a person, the principal, designate a trusted agent to handle the principal's property with the principal's best interests in mind. This document gives the agent a variety of legal powers over the principal's money and property, but it also comes with legal duties that the principal must fulfill. Agents need to be aware of both of these things to properly complete their jobs without bringing liability onto themselves.

The Powers Granted

The powers granted to an agent under a power of attorney vary depending on the principal's wishes, but in 2011 Illinois created a general form with 15 default powers that a principal can bestow upon an agent. These powers include:

-The authority to buy or sell real estate on behalf of the principal;

-The authority to deal with banks and safe deposit boxes for the principal;

-The authority to represent the principal in insurance transactions; and

-The authority to buy and sell stocks and bonds for the principal.

The form also includes extra sections to place limitations on these powers or to add extras. For instance, the principal can allow the agent to buy and sell stocks and bonds, but also forbid them from selling a particular stock. Similarly, the power to give gifts on the principal's behalf is not included in the default form, but a principal could add it if they so chose.

The Duties of the Agent

Importantly, by taking on these powers, the agent enters into a “fiduciary” relationship with the principal, meaning that they have a duty to act in the principal's best interests. In addition to that general duty, the law also imposes other, more specific duties on the agent. For instance, the agent is required to act in accordance with any estate plans that the principal has put in place to the extent possible. Agents also have a duty to keep good financial records of any “receipts, disbursements, and significant actions conducted for the principal.” The law also forbids agents from taking certain actions. These forbidden actions include commingling the principal's funds with their own, taking loans from the principal, and exceeding the authority granted by the power of attorney.

Powers of attorney are complex legal documents, and managing them incorrectly can open the agent up to legal liability. If you are considering a power of attorney, contact an Arlington Heights estate planning attorney serving the northwest suburbs to better understand your duties as well as other potential estate planning options. We assist clients throughout Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg, Long Grove, Kenilworth, Riverwoods, and the rest of the Chicagoland area.

About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.

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