In going about your daily routine, you are unlikely to stop and think, “I wonder if today is the day something bad is going to happen to me. I wonder if today is the day that I won’t make it home it one piece.” No one wants to think about that kind of stuff, but at the same time, no one knows when incapacitation or death may strike. That is why it is important to be prepared now for when it does.
How can you prepare for incapacitation? It all starts by asking yourself a couple of questions. Who will make medical decisions for me? Who will handle my financial affairs? If you fail to assign someone these duties, a judge may have the opportunity to make the decision for you.
Powers of attorney
If you want to have a say in who will handle your affairs when you cannot, you may want to consider setting up powers of attorney. There are several options when doing so. There are financial POAs and healthcare POAs. What is the difference?
When you name an agent in a financial power of attorney, this person will gain control over your bank accounts and property. He or she will have the responsibility of making sure your bills and taxes are paid. This individual may also have the right to sell your property if doing so would serve your best interests. A person named as an agent in a healthcare power of attorney will have the responsibility of making all medical decisions for you. Such decisions may include:
- What treatments you will or will not receive
- Where you receive your treatments
- What medical providers you can see
- If your care should be stopped
These are just a few of the basics, but they are all significant decisions. This is not a job that should be given to just anyone.
Durable or springing
When you decide who will fill the shoes as agents in your healthcare and financial POAs, you then have to decide when they can begin their roles. A durable power of attorney allows the agent to assume duties immediately. A springing POA, on the other hand, requires that you become incapacitated before your agents step in to fulfill their roles.
There is a lot of information floating around out there regarding powers of attorney. If you are serious about protecting yourself, your family and your assets in the event you become incapacitated, it is okay to ask questions about POAs and other legal documents that can help you do just that.