A lot of people avoid taking care of end-of-life necessities – like making a will, creating a trust, or filling out power of attorney forms – for as long as possible.
In fact, some never get around to them at all.
One of the reasons for this is because no one wants to face their own mortality. In fact, there are quite a few people who think that taking care of end-of-life matters will actually invite their demise.
The reality is, though, that people who take the steps to get these things cared for actually have more peace of mind than those who don’t.
They don’t have a huge, heavy responsibility looming over their head.
Instead, they feel at peace knowing that their assets, their wishes, and their loved ones are going to be well cared for in the future.
Today, we’ll show you how to take care of one of the most important end-of-life tasks: How to get power of attorney.
We’ll show you why this is so important, and then explain the process of getting one.
Why You Need to Have Power of Attorney in the First Place
As much as we don’t want to admit it, we’re all getting older. And as we age, our body and mind start to slowly decline.
There will likely come a point in our life when we will need assistance from our loved ones.
While most people are ready and willing to help those in their family who need some help, it’s not always easy.
The reason for this is not just because caretaking is a tough job. Actually, a big part of the stress that people experience is that they don’t have the power or authority they need to act in behalf of a loved one who has become physically or mentally incapacitated.
And things get even more complicated after they lose a loved one in death.
In order to make medical or financial decisions for someone, you need to assign power of attorney.
What this means is that in the event that you can’t make decisions on your own – because of severe illness, injury, or death – someone that you’ve designated can make decisions in your behalf. This person is called your agent.
This doesn’t mean that the decisions they make are all their own. Rather, these decisions are based on your wishes as outlined in the power of attorney paperwork.
Is it enough to simply make a verbal agreement with one of your adult children or a spouse?
Unfortunately, it’s not.
Verbal agreements mean nothing in the eyes of the law. If you want something to happen according to your wishes, then it needs to be put into writing.
Having a power of attorney will protect you and your assets by dictating just how much power your agent has.
Of course, there are some legal restrictions in place already. For example, your agent can’t make any decisions after your death unless they’ve been assigned as the executor of your will as well as your power of attorney agent.
Another limitation they have is assigning someone else to do their job. They have the right to decline being your agent, but they don’t have the right to choose who will take on that job.
A healthcare agent can:
A financial agent can:
Sometimes, the financial agent and healthcare agent is the same person. If they’re not, the two will need to be in communication regarding healthcare costs and decisions.
Protecting Your Family – How to Get Power of Attorney
Now that you know why you need one, would you like to know how to get power of attorney?
Actually, it’s a fairly simple process. The paperwork, that is.
There will be plenty of time spent deciding who is going to be your agent and what your medical and financial wishes are.
The following information will help you complete your power of attorney (POA) in a timely manner so you don’t have to worry about it for quite some time.
Do You Need a Financial POA, Healthcare POA, or Both?
While some people choose to simply have a healthcare POA, it’s usually best to have all of your bases covered.
Even if you don’t feel you have enough money or assets to warrant assigning someone to take care of them, the fact of the matter is that we all have financial needs.
If you become somehow incapacitated, who will take care of your bills?
Whether healthcare costs, monthly bills, or government benefits, we all have financial needs that need to be addressed. And that means that someone may need to take care of these things for you at some point in the future.
If you want, you can assign the same person to be both your healthcare POA and financial POA.
However, quite a few experts recommend utilizing two separate people to ensure no conflicts of interest and to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled.
Talk to an Attorney for More Information about Estate Planning
Completing the paperwork for a financial or healthcare power of attorney is just one part of the broad spectrum that is estate planning.
For those who have a larger estate or a trust, it’s best to consult an attorney to make sure the information in your power of attorney paperwork matches that of your trust, will, or other legal documents.
If things don’t match up, it can make things more difficult down the road for whoever is taking care of your estate, finances, or healthcare needs.
Do Your Research Regarding State Requirements
Most states have similar requirements when it comes to POA, but it’s always best to make sure you’re doing things the right way. Not only will this prevent confusion down the road, it will save you time now and is just one more way you can protect your interests and wishes later on.
Download a POA Form and Make Sure the Information Is Clear
There are multiple sites that have downloadable POA forms that you can fill out on your own.
Once you fill one out, whether on your own or with an attorney, double check the form for clarity. And make sure your agent completely understands what’s expected of them.
Don’t Sign Until You Have Witnesses
Since this is a legal document, you’ll need to have at least two witnesses watch you sign the POA form. They will also need to sign the form attesting to the fact that they did, in fact, witness your signature.
Again, check state requirements to see how many witnesses are needed and whether the document needs to be notarized or not.
Choosing the Best Person to Be Your Agent
One of the most important decisions you will make during this process is choosing your power of attorney agent.
You’ll definitely want to choose someone you trust completely, someone you know has your back.
Your first inclination might be to assign your spouse or adult child.
This might not always be the best decision.
Healthcare decisions can be difficult for family members to make, especially if they’re in an emotionally vulnerable state.
Think about who would make decisions in your best interests and follow your instructions.
Then, talk to the person and ask them if they feel comfortable taking on that job for you.
Getting Power of Attorney Now – Why You Shouldn’t Wait Too Long
Leaving decisions up to the last minute is never a good idea, especially when they’re important life decisions.
These decisions, like finding out how to get power of attorney or making a will, take time. They should never be left up to chance or to the last minute.
And yet, this is exactly what many people do.
They don’t like taking the time to do the work or they’re afraid doing so will tempt fate.
When they wait until they’re incapacitated, they end up making rash decisions or, in some cases, they can’t make those decisions at all.
Waiting until it’s too late can put your final wishes at risk. You might not receive the end-of-life treatment you were hoping for, or you might receive treatment you never wanted.
Your assets and loved ones are also at risk. If your wishes aren’t known, the decisions regarding how your assets are used and who they go to after your death are made by someone you might not want to make those sorts of decisions.
Instead of leaving everything up to fate and the courts, take steps now to assign power of attorney and complete a will.
You don’t have to do it all at once. One step at a time is fine. Just avoid putting things off until it’s too late.
When you take these steps – as uncomfortable they might be at first – you’ll feel at peace in the end knowing that your final wishes will come to fruition.