Estate planning is about so much more than planning for how your assets will be distributed after you pass away. It is also about putting critical legal protections in place that can be very important during your lifetime. Aging can present some difficult and legally complex situations that can be made much easier with a comprehensive estate plan in place. A durable power of attorney, for instance, can be a very important part of an estate plan. If your aging parent does not have one in place yet, this should be at the top of the to-do list. We will talk more about why that is the case here.
Why You Need a Durable Power of Attorney in Place for Your Aging Parent
A common part of aging is the struggle to remain self-reliant and independent. At some point, however, most of us will come to rely on others more and more. As we lean on others, such as adult children, there are legal measures to take that can make it easier for others to help us take care of necessary things, such as managing finances and health care. A durable power of attorney can play a powerful role in this transition into delegating responsibilities to others as we age.
A power of attorney is a legal document in which the principal grants authority to the agent to act on behalf of the principal in certain designated matters, such as financial management and health care decision making. Powers of attorney, however, will terminate upon death or incapacity of the principal. This is where the durability feature comes in. While a durable power of attorney will terminate upon the death of the principal, it survives the principal’s incapacitation. This means that you will remain empowered to manage your parent’s finances and health care even in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated.
One of the many benefits of having a durable power of attorney is that a guardianship can be avoided. A guardianship is established by the court system and creates a legal relationship where a person no longer able to make personal decisions for themselves is appointed a guardian that will assist with things like making medical decisions, although most all decisions will require approval by the court. Guardianship proceedings can be complicated, frustrating, and lengthy, not to mention the fact that a guardianship can be very restrictive.
Most often, a family member or loved one will initiate guardianship proceedings because their loved one is unable to manage their affairs and the family member has no legal authority to access assets or direct healthcare. The individual that is the subject of the proceedings will need to undergo a medical examination by a licensed practitioner to determine the level of incapacitation. Having a durable power of attorney in place can help avoid guardianship proceedings, but it must be done in advance. Once a person becomes mentally incapacitated they are unable to create a durable power of attorney. In most cases, having a very comprehensive durable power of attorney, along with specific healthcare documents, eliminates the need to seek assistance through a court guardianship proceeding.
Estate Planning Attorneys
Estate planning is too important to delay. Put it at the top of your to-do list and get in touch with the dedicated estate planning attorneys at Palmer & Slay. Contact us today.