Our readers in the Detroit area may recall our previous discussions about the variety of estate planning tools — such as wills and trusts — that can be included in a comprehensive plan. But one instrument that sometimes is overlooked is the power of attorney. Powers of attorney are key parts of an estate plan because they ensure that your wishes are followed — not when you die, but when you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions on your own.
A recent article in Time examined powers of attorney from the point of view of an adult child helping an aging parent. The article points out that a power of attorney is a significant legal document meant to help make an aging loved one’s life easier, and to help ensure a smooth transition in the event an elderly parent becomes incapacitated.
A durable power of attorney is needed in order to appoint a representative to manage the majority of your affairs in the event you are unable to make decisions. More specifically, a health care power of attorney (known as a “patient advocate designation” in Michigan) addresses the issue of an estate planner being unable to instruct doctors as to his or her care. A patient advocate designation allows the estate planner to appoint another person to make decisions regarding what type of medical care the planner would like to receive.
Some of our Michigan readers may already have powers of attorney included in their estate plans, which is great. Everyone should have one. But what about aging parents or other older family members for whom you may be the designated legal representative? It is usually a good idea to make sure that that aging family members have the correct estate planning instruments in place.
While it may seem like an awkward discussion to have, it is always better to find out someone’s end-of-life wishes ahead of time, rather than being left to do the guesswork.
Source: Time, “6 Steps for Building a Financial Plan for Aging Parents,” Christopher Matthews, June 1, 2012