Despite its numerous and significant benefits, many people fail to make an estate plan until it is too late. An estate plan is not simply for the extraordinarily wealthy. In fact, there are many different aspects of an estate plan that are very important for nearly every individual, regardless of wealth. One of these elements is power of attorney. Designating a power of attorney can be useful in many different situations, but many people still fail to take advantage of this important legal tool.
Recently, Detroit Medical Center commemorated National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day that has been designated as April 16. The Detroit Medical Center’s Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital organized an event with Independence Village of White Lake in order to celebrate the day and increase public awareness about the importance of planning for healthcare decision making. The event provided information and tools designed to facilitate conversations with family, friends and healthcare providers about healthcare wishes. The event also provided information on creating a healthcare power of attorney and living will.
Many people associate creating a power of attorney with relinquishing power and control over one’s affairs, but this is a misunderstanding of the purpose of these legal instruments. Durable powers of attorney are designed to provide a legally enforceable way for people to decide who is responsible for their affairs and to make their wishes known when they are physically unable to communicate them. A durable power of attorney, at its core, simply allows people the ability to designate a representative of their choosing who will act for them–in accordance with their wishes–when the need arises. Without a power of attorney designating a personal representative, the decision-making power will fall to the closest kin, who may be unable or unwilling to carry out a person’s wishes.
There are many different ways that a person can control how the power of attorney functions. Some people create it with the expectation and intent that it will be immediately effective, while others indicate that the power of attorney only goes into effect when certain, specified, situations arise. Powers of attorney can also be very expansive, allowing the representative to make a wide range of decisions, or very limited in scope.
Source: Oakland Press, “BRIEFING: DMC celebrates National Healthcare Day; free inspections by Belle Tire; History of Michigan/Canada border; used jewelry sale,” Apr. 16, 2015