It doesn't matter how old you are -- a catastrophic medical condition could render you incapacitated in a heartbeat. However, the older we get, the more likely such a health problem will develop.
As we age, we're more susceptible to suffering from a stroke or heart attack. We're also more at risk of developing Alzheimer's or another disease that downgrades our mental capacity. For this reason, if you're over the age of 50 and you haven't set up both a health care power of attorney and a financial power of attorney, you may want to do so now before it's too late.
Financial power of attorney
A financial power of attorney gives your representative the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf. Imagine if you suffer from a stroke, and you're unconscious at the hospital. You still need to pay your bills, and you still need to make decisions about your investment accounts.
By naming an individual in a financial power of attorney, you can give this individual the ability to act on your behalf and in accordance with your best interests.
Health care power of attorney
A health care power of attorney is the same as a financial power of attorney -- only it covers your health care decisions. Imagine you're in a catastrophic medical condition where you can't decide whether to have a surgery or not. Your attorney-in-fact named in your health care power of attorney will have access to your medical records and your doctors to ensure you get the best care available.
As a part of your health care power of attorney, you may also want to draft a health care directive. This document will provide direction to your power of attorney, and he or she will be legally bound to follow your health care directive when there is any question about your care.
Select an appropriate attorney-in-fact
An estate planning lawyer can help you draft both a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. Your lawyer can also help you consider the different factors involved in selecting a power of attorney that's appropriate. Ideally, this person should be responsible, available to assist you, and intellectually and physically able to make sound choices on your behalf.