Too many people have a negative reaction to the idea of power of attorney documents. While it is true that predatory individuals can, theoretically, use a power of attorney as a means to gain control over or manipulate someone else, in reality, these documents primarily serve the critical purpose of protecting people who experienced severe medical events.
A power of attorney only has authority if the individual who signs the document becomes incapable of acting on their own behalf. Whether they have a severe illness that forces them into a coma or suffer a head injury in a car crash, a person who executes a power of attorney does not have to worry about its authority getting used by the other individual until they wind up temporarily incapacitated.
The protections offered by power of attorney documents can give you peace of mind and protect the people you love from financial hardship or difficult decisions.
Financial power of attorney gives someone access to your accounts
If you can’t currently pay your bills or manage your finances, you need someone who can do that on your behalf. Even if someone isn’t listed as an account holder, a power of attorney will give them the right to access the funds for limited purposes.
For example, you can specifically outline that individuals can only access the amount of money they need to pay your bills, your taxes or your mortgage. You can be incredibly specific on what authority you grant to another person with a power of attorney, potentially limiting them to only a specific account or only certain financial transactions.
What’s important here is that there is someone with the legal right and authority to act on your behalf, thereby helping you avoid issues such as foreclosure on your house or other financial hardships as a result of an illness or injury.
Naming someone in a medical power of attorney protects your wishes
You might assume that your spouse or your children will be readily available to make medical decisions on your behalf if you get into an accident or suddenly fall dangerously ill. However, your family members may feel incredibly stressed as a result of your injury or illness and may not be able to make decisions on your behalf.
Even if you have discussed your wishes with them in the past, they may not be able to recall those wishes at the time when you might need them. A power of attorney document can name someone who has a close relationship with you (but not a direct familial one) as the individual with the authority to make medical choices on your behalf. You can also include an advance medical directive that explicitly outlines your medical preferences.
Consider a durable power of attorney if you worry about permanent incapacitation
Is there a history of Alzheimer’s disease in your family? Do you have another condition that you believe could impact your cognitive function or health in the future? Anyone who believes there is a reasonable likelihood that they will wind up permanently incapacitated in the future should consider a durable power of attorney.
Unlike a standard power of attorney document, which loses power at the time that the courts declare you permanently incapacitated, a durable power of attorney takes effect in that exact situation. Standard power of attorney documents could leave you vulnerable when you need help the most, which is why a durable power of attorney is often an important secondary estate planning tool.