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Considering powers of attorney documents for Michigan residents

Michigan readers may have heard the term "powers of attorney" and not been fully aware of what the term means. It is a fairly common legal term that refers to a particular kind of document that many Michigan residents draft in anticipation that they may become enfeebled or incapacitated in some way. For instance, if an adult child discovers that his or her parent is allowing bills to pile up in the parent's home because of the parent's inability to keep up, a powers of attorney document can be helpful in allowing the adult child to take over bill-paying and other estate matters because the parent is no longer able.

When designing an estate plan strategy, another benefit of assigning powers of attorney is that the document can prevent or mitigate any family disputes that could arise if legal matters suddenly fall upon the family. Powers of attorney can be given to a spouse, an adult child, or another loved one who can ensure that your wishes are upheld should unpleasant end-of-life decisions come about. Such issues might involve decisions about feeding tubes, life support, antibiotics, etc., and in these cases, matters can be simplified by using a powers of attorney document to designate a person as a health care representative, otherwise known as patient advocate.

Of course, it is best to draft a powers of attorney document before any unexpected conditions happen that might make drafting such a document difficult. But sometimes it becomes clear to family members that a parent or a spouse is unable to handle financial or estate matters, but powers of attorney have not yet been determined. In these cases, Michigan parents, spouses, adult children, and other loved ones might ask some key questions:

•· If a person becomes unable to perform daily living activities, such as feeding and clothing oneself, or paying one's bills, then who can best make the decisions regarding such matters?

•· Exactly what financial obligations need to be addressed if a person becomes incapacitated or otherwise incapable of addressing those obligations?

•· If powers of attorney ought to be determined, who should take on that responsibility? How would children, siblings, or other loved ones feel about that designation?

Powers of attorney documents can be as precise or flexible as the individual desires, and they can be drafted to fit most Michigan residents' needs. Seeking out experienced legal counsel in such matters is a surefire way to ensure that powers of attorney are determined wisely and with a view to mitigating any future burdens that may arise for loved ones.

Source:, "Julie Jason: Life-changing transitions call for family decision-making," Nov. 18, 2011

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