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A "deadly sin" to leave out powers of attorney from estate plan?

It is common for many people to associate estate planning with preparing for the distribution of assets after death. While this is indeed one of the main reasons for a Michigan resident to have an estate plan drafted, there are many aspects of the plan that will address events that could be possible before a person's death. This is where the power of attorney documents come into play.

A recent article noted that forgetting to include powers of attorney in an estate plan could be considered one of the "deadly sins" of estate planning. Why are these documents so vital to a comprehensive plan? The answer is: control.

In Michigan, a health care power of attorney allows a person to appoint one or more individual to make crucial decisions on the person's behalf. Most experts would probably say it is better to have only one individual in this role, in order to limit conflict and disagreement. The health care power of attorney will be important if the planner suffers a debilitating injury or illness, which leaves them unable to make decisions or express decisions about their healthcare. In such an unfortunate event, the appointed person will step in to inform medical professionals about the person's wishes for their healthcare, or to make decisions if a particular scenario wasn't contemplated beforehand.

A person's health is of the utmost importance, but control of finances is a close second for many people. That is why a durable power of attorney should be part of an estate plan as well, so that the planner can appoint a trusted family member or friend to exercise control over the person's financial assets and accounts, making the decisions about how and when to meet the planner's financial obligations.

Source: Missoulian, "STEVE DARTY: Estate planning's 7 deadly sins," Steve Darty, Dec. 5, 2013

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