Estate planning requires that you confront some unpleasant realities, such as the fact that you will eventually die. The best estate plans protect not just the people you love after your death but also you as an individual as you grow older.
Age or an injury could leave you unable to speak for yourself. In such a situation, family members and professionals providing support as you age could petition the courts for guardianship. A guardian assumes control over your finances, household and medical care.
You can avoid an involuntary guardianship that you have no control over by creating powers of attorney now.
Powers of attorney take effect when you need support
When you draft powers of attorney delegating medical or financial authority to someone you trust, you don’t give up your independence. You simply put an emergency plan in place in case you lose the authority to enter into binding agreements or manage your household.
The people you name in your powers of attorney will have the right to access your financial accounts or authorize medical care on your behalf. That authority only starts in the event of your incapacitation. The benefits of using powers of attorney instead of waiting to see if you might need a guardianship are obvious.
The most important benefit is that you determine who takes over that crucial role in your life. Only slightly less crucial is how you can limit the authority those individuals have or provide them with in-depth instructions about your long-term wishes.
Choosing your own caregivers can improve your quality of life
Those subject to involuntary guardianship may not be in the best circumstances. The family member who decides to ask for guardianship might be someone who won’t put the needs of their loved one ahead of their potential future inheritance, for example. If that individual is a professional and not a family member, they might use up all of your assets paying for care at facilities that they have relationships with, thereby undermining the legacy you wanted to leave behind when you die.
While it may be unpleasant to think about potential future death and medical incapacitation, planning for those emergencies now puts you in control and limits the risk to you and your legacy after a medical emergency or similar situation affects your life. Adding powers of attorney to your estate plan can protect you as you age and the people you love.