Creating a last will and estate plan is a complicated process. From determining whom in your family should receive which assets to deciding on your medical wishes regarding life support and other concerns, there are many things to consider. You need to take the time to create a comprehensive estate plan, including a living will.
One of the most important decisions you will make regarding your living will is which of your family members or close friends should receive power of attorney. Your living will includes your advance medical directive, which outlines your wishes in the event that you become medically incapacitated, perhaps as the result of a traumatic brain injury or stroke. If you are not able to speak up on your own behalf, the individual who holds power of attorney will have the right to make certain decisions for you.
It is common for people to assign medical power of attorney as well as limited financial power of attorney to a family member. Doing so ensures that your wishes get followed when you cannot communicate them, and that all of your obligations get properly handled.
Many people choose a spouse, but this isn't always best
Typically speaking, when you cannot handle financial and medical decisions on your own, your spouse is the one who has the authority to make those decisions. However, naming your spouse as your power of attorney may not be the best option. Certainly your spouse will have your best interests in mind, but they will also be under incredible levels of stress and strain.
If anything were to happen to you, your spouse will likely be emotional and dealing with a broad range of complications and concerns. Adding the requirements to handle delicate medical and financial matters may be too much. Only you know how your spouse handles times of intense stress. If you think he or she would be prone to succumbing to stress or making poor decisions that don't reflect your written wishes, naming someone else could be a better option.
Assigning power of attorney to more than one person is possible as well
Because you typically create two different power of attorney documents, one for medical issues and one for financial concerns, it is also possible to spread out that responsibility among several people that you trust. This can reduce the strain on any one person.
Close friends, siblings, cousins and even children or grandchildren are potential candidates to accept the responsibility that comes from power of attorney documents. Choose someone whom you would trust to follow your instructions. They need to be capable of handling complex issues and making decisions in times of stress. Make sure you discuss your plans to assign them power of attorney before you finalize the documents. You don't want that responsibility to come as a surprise.