A serious accident or unexpected illness can strike anyone at any time, regardless of age.
If you should become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself, who would take charge of your healthcare needs or financial affairs?
The advance directive
An advance directive is a legal document that will come into play if you should become incapacitated. This healthcare proxy allows the person you appoint as your agent to make decisions about your medical care. These might involve physician instructions, surgical decisions, long-term planning, end-of-life care and more.
The POA for finances
A durable power of attorney (POA) for finances becomes effective as soon as you sign it. As with a healthcare proxy, the person you name as your agent can step in and make decisions on your behalf. For example, your agent can make deposits to your checking account, file your taxes, make investment decisions and even manage your property. Creating a POA for finances is also a good idea if you just need a little help such as balancing your checkbook or contacting Social Security or Medicare with questions about your accounts.
An important point to remember is that you can only create advance directives and POAs if you are mentally competent when you sign them. With age comes the possibility of developing some level of dementia. If this happens, you would not legally be able to appoint an agent to act on your behalf. Consequently, the sooner you can establish these documents, the better. Both the healthcare proxy and the POA for finances are important, basic estate planning tools for you to consider at any age.