A common misconception is that estate planning merely involves planning for one’s death by preparing a Last Will and Testament. While a Last Will and Testament is an essential part of estate planning, it does not govern your financial and healthcare decisions during your life. Thus, a complete estate plan must include financial and healthcare powers of attorney. These are legal documents that allow a trusted person to make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated due to accident or illness.
Consider who would make your financial and healthcare decisions if you are incapacitated. Your investment broker, banker, insurance agent, and creditors are unlikely to give someone, including a spouse, access to your personal accounts unless he or she can show proper authority. Likewise, a healthcare provider may be reluctant to release healthcare information or allow a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf unless that person can show proper authority. The primary means of proving this authority are through financial and healthcare powers of attorney.
In the absence of financial and healthcare powers of attorney, someone (typically a spouse, child, parent, or other family member) must petition a court to obtain the authority to act on your behalf. The process to appoint a guardian and conservator is time consuming and usually requires the assistance of an attorney, which adds unnecessary delay and expense, especially during an emergency. More important, the court and those petitioning on your behalf decide who will be granted such authority, and that person may not be the one you would have chosen.
Thus, ensure that your estate plan includes more than just a Last Will and Testament, but also financial and healthcare powers of attorney. White Oak Law Firm is ready to guide you through the estate planning process, including the preparation of your financial and healthcare powers of attorney. Contact us today for a free estate planning consultation and quote!