Most New Yorkers are familiar with some of the most basic estate planning tools. They may know that wills are important because they give information on how decedents want their assets distributed. They may also be familiar with trusts as devices that may protect decedents’ wealth and help facilitate the transfer of assets to their loved ones. They may not know, though, of the importance of powers of attorney to their long-term care planning needs.

Powers of attorney give rights to named individuals to make important decisions for individuals when they cannot do so on their own. For example, if a person has executed a financial power of attorney and is incapacitated in an accident, the individual that they named could handle their bills, manage their investments and undertake other financial duties until the injured individual is recovered.

Similarly, a health care power of attorney gives decision-making rights to a named individual to make medical care choices for the incapacitated person. Such an individual may be able to decide if the incapacitated person should receive further medical treatment, should be enrolled in a medical trial or if their doctors should cease efforts to improve their health.

Powers of attorney are not estate planning tools in the traditional sense as they do not apply when individuals have passed away. Rather, they are important long-term care planning tools as they give rights to others when incapacitation prevents living individuals from making choices on their own. Readers who are ready to draft and execute their own powers of attorney documents may reach out to their trusted legal professionals.