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.


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