There are times in life when you cannot speak up on your own behalf. When you are a child, you typically do not have the legal authority to make your own decisions. The same is true for older adults experiencing cognitive decline and those with incapacitating medical conditions.
You never know what might occur in the future, so planning to protect yourself when you can’t speak on your own behalf or make your wishes known is a wise decision. Powers of attorney can give other people the authority to make decisions and take action on your behalf.
There are three focuses you might apply to your power of attorney that can help optimize your protection.
- Focus on your finances
A financial power of attorney authorizes someone to handle your money matters when you can’t do so yourself. You can authorize someone out to pay your mortgage and utilities. If you have a business, you may authorize someone to temporarily handle business transactions.
You can typically limit the accounts that people can access and what they can use your money for in a well-drafted power of attorney document.
- Protect yourself from medical uncertainty
There are several ways for you to authorize someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. A medical power of attorney is one of them. Such a document empowers a specific person to make medical decisions when you can’t.
You may want to combine such a document with an advance medical directive that explains your various medical preferences and wishes.
- Make sure your documents have staying power
Some powers of attorney lose their authority when you lose your testamentary capacity. If the courts would adjudicate you incompetent, then your financial or medical power of attorney loses its authority. A durable power of attorney retains its authority even if you become permanently incapacitated. You can draft your powers of attorney to be durable or specifically to lose authority in the event of your permanent incapacitation.
Many people find that including highly specific language in their power of attorney documents offers them the most protection. Those planning their estates may need to focus on one goal or a combination of the three, depending on their circumstances.